Thursday, May 31, 2012

Visiting Home: Activities & Food in Jakarta


There isn't really much to do in Jakarta besides going to the different malls. Every time I go home, there seems to always be a new mall to check out. Unless you have lived in Jakarta, you probably don't know how important of a role the mall plays in the lives of Indonesians in Jakarta. :)

At a typical mall, there's usually grocery stores, movie theater, clothing stores, restaurants, hair salons, book stores, furniture stores, and even doctor's offices. Basically you can find almost everything at a mall.

If you do go to Jakarta, here are a couple of must-dos:
  • Cheap massages:  Massages cost around $10-$15 for an hour, which is so heavenly. I think I had a massage every other day. :)
  • Cream bath:  This is basically a treatment for your hair, where they massage your hair and back, and then steam your hair. It costs around $15-$20.
  • Watch a movie at the luxurious theater, such as XXI or Blitz. The chairs are lazy boys and you can actually order food while you watch movie.
That's it. :) Other than that, enjoy all the different food. Here's what I ate while in Jakarta.


Chicken Katsu Toast

I have had chicken katsu before, but never inside toast. It actually was really good!

Chicken Katsu & Toast

Sup Buntut Bakar at D'Core

Sup buntut means "oxtail soup". A couple of my friends opened up a new restaurant called D'Core in Jakarta so I went there for lunch and ordered the sup buntut bakar, which means "grilled oxtail soup". It was good and definitely satisfied my Indonesian food craving. One of my other favorite places for sup buntut is at the Intercontinental Borobudur hotel.

Sup buntut goreng

Red Velvet Cake at Union

My friend raved about this red velvet cake at Union cafe in Plaza Senayan. So we went to try it. It was pretty good. The cake was moist, and I loved the crushed candied pecan on the cake. The cream was very buttery, and less sweet compared to the typical red velvet icing in the US.

Red Velvet Cake

Egg Chicken Roll at Hoka Hoka Bento

Hoka Hoka Bento is a fast food Japanese restaurant that is usually available at every major mall in Jakarta. The meal typically includes coleslaw salad with this yummy creamy sauce, as well as pickled carrot. One of my favorite dishes is the egg chicken roll (deep fried!).

Egg Chicken Roll


Martabak is basically Indonesian's version of a pancake that is in a "sandwich" form. This is probably the food that I craved the most all the time. :) This food is actually a typical street snack, and you can only find it on the streets. Some street vendors do delivery and that's what we did. I think I had this delivered 4-5 times during my 2 week trip in Jakarta.

The pancake is chewy, thick, soft, and a bit spongy - and very buttery. They use a Dutch butter called Wisman which truly adds to the taste. My favorite is the cheese with sweet condensed milk, but the chocolate & peanut one is really good as well!

Martabak keju manis

Nasi Langgi

Like Singapore, there are lots of food courts with pretty good food at the different malls. You can find a lot of variety from traditional Indonesian food, to Japanese and American food.

I ordered a Nasi Langgi which is a traditional Indonesian rice dish. It was served with chicken, hard boiled egg, gizzard, and vegetable curry.

Nasi Langgi

For dessert, I had Es Podeng--a dessert that I have not had since I was probably in middle school. This is typically a dessert served on the streets, so I am glad to have found this at the food court. It's basically a coconut ice cream served with avocado, jellies, bread, and sticky black rice.

Es Podeng

Japanese Spaghetti at Angus Steakhouse

Angus Steakhouse served one of the best Japanese-style spaghetti! The spaghetti was cooked al dente, served with mentaiko and cut nori. Yum!

Japanese-style spaghetti

Short Rib at Angus Steakhouse

Angus also serves really good steak. We ordered the short rib and it was cooked nicely and was definitely a good cut of beef. The beef was actually imported from the US.


Avocado Smoothie

Avocados in Indonesia are typically served sweet, almost like a dessert. I know this is a funny concept for most Americans since they associate avocado with "guacamole". In Indonesia, avocado juice is usually served cold and with chocolate, coffee, and/or ice cream.

Overall I had a very satisfying trip back home, especially food wise. There's always an abundance of great food at a very reasonable cost. My favorite though is still the martabak...yum!

Next Post: Jakarta - Singapore - Seoul

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Visiting Home: Singapore - Jakarta

I took the taxi from my friend's place to the Changi airport. I got there 2 hours prior to boarding time, so after checking in and security, I went to the business class lounge. The lounge was actually pretty big and looked new.

Business class lounge - Terminal 3

There was actually quite a good selection of food, but I was still too full so ended up not getting anything.

I used the shower to freshen up after quite a full day walking around Singapore, and it was a hot day! 

Shower at T3 Airport

Once we boarded, the business class section had older seats, but with plenty of legroom. The seat configuration was 2-3-2, and I chose an aisle seat. The menu and the noise cancelling headphones were in the front seat back pocket. There was also pillow and blanket, which I ended up not using for the short flight.

I chose the chow mein noodle which was actually pretty good. I was too full though so only ate a bit. I had the white wine also which was good.

It was such a short flight and before I knew it, I landed in Jakarta.

Next Post: Activities & Food in Jakarta

Monday, May 28, 2012

Visiting Home: Singapore Layover

For my layover in Singapore, my friend was gracious enough to let me stay at her place. She asked me what I wanted to do for my 1 day layover, and I told her I want to visit the new Marina Bay Sands hotel and eat my favorite oyster egg dish!

We took the taxi to the Marina Bay Sands hotel which was connected to a huge mall. I originally wanted to go up to see the famous infinity swimming pool, but decided against it since there's a fee for just visiting.

Marina Bay Sands

The mall was quite nice and big, typical Asian mall. :) There's the water area similar to the Venetian hotel in Las Vegas, although I didn't see anyone riding the gondola.

Inside the mall

We visited the inside of the hotel, and I was quite disappointed. It was mainly white and it didn't have that grand entrance feeling and didn't leave me with a lasting impression. I am surprised that they left the inside very barren and not luxurious at all. I also heard that the rooms were just very mediocre with a hefty price tag.

Hotel lobby

We walked around outside the hotel and saw great views of downtown Singapore.

Downtown Singapore

For lunch we decided to just eat at the mall food court as oppose to going to my usual favorite: Lau Pa Sat, Takashimaya's food court, or the Newton hawker center. I ordered the oyster egg and was very disappointed. It was very dry and consisted mostly of the dough, and the dough wasn't even that gooey. :( But it at least alleviated some of my cravings.

Oyster egg

My friend also introduced me to Din Tai Fung's taro pao. It's a very interesting concept since the inside was basically smashed taro.

Din Tai Fung's taro pao

We did stop by Takashimaya's food court on the way back, and I had a couple of my favorite snacks: Japanese pancake with cream cheese and srikaya and takoyaki!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Visiting Home: Seoul - Singapore

The layover in Seoul was only 1.5 hours, so by the time I arrived in Seoul, it was already time to board the next flight. I originally wanted to check out the lounge in Seoul, but I really didn't have time.

It was really exciting to try Singapore Airlines business class for me personally. Growing up my family flew SQ a lot but always in economy, so I had always aspired to one day finally fly SQ in a premium class. I was quite thankful to finally have the chance to do so! The flight was actually quite full...all the seats were taken. I was greeted warmly at the door by the flight attendants.

I liked the leather color ad the overall aesthetic of the seat - it looked very upscale, although the seat pitch did feel a bit more cramped than the United seat that I was on - although it was perfectly fine for a not so long flight. Service was excellent which was expected of SQ. They offered a non alcoholic pre-departure drink which was really good.

I was too full to eat anything so only had their satay appetizer and skipped the main course to have dessert. They had a couple options, but I went with ice cream again. :) I then watched a couple episodes of Glee before taking a nap.

Ice cream was pretty good, although I realized I had 2 ice creams in a row! Should have opted for the chocolate cake instead.

I slept for the rest of the flight and got some pretty good rest. The seat did not lay fully flat but it was definitely good enough for me. It would be a bit hard though I would imagine for the person sitting next to me to try to go to the bathroom. So if you're traveling by yourself, it's probably better to get one of the middle seats which were both aisle seats.


Overall I enjoyed my flight on SQ - service was great as usual. I liked that they had a pretty good non-alcoholic drink selection, other than sodas. I also really liked the aesthetics of the cabin and seats, even though the seat pitch felt a bit tight. I could finally say that I checked off my childhood dream of sitting on a business class cabin on an SQ flight. :)

Next Post: Singapore Layover

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Visiting Home: San Francisco - Seoul

I was looking forward to my trip back home...although I felt bad leaving Dan for 2 weeks. To compensate for my guilt, I did cook him a bunch of food that I froze, so he won't starve while I was away. :)

For the first leg from San Francisco to Seoul, I was on United. This would be the first time trying their business class, and I was excited to try it. Dan dropped me off at the airport 2 hours before boarding. I spent just a quick 30 mins at the Star Alliance Business Class lounge which was the same one when we took Lufthansa to Munich last month. Boarding started on time and I had preselected an aisle seat on the 2nd floor. When I was about to go upstairs, I was notified by the flight attendant that the luggage compartment for the seats upstairs were broken so I had to store my luggage at one of the lower seats' compartment. He showed me an area where I could store my carry on luggage and then I proceeded upstairs.

United's Business Class Seat

There were only a small number of seats upstairs, and I actually really preferred the upstairs area as it was a lot more quiet. I also noticed that some of the seats were backward facing which was interesting. There was plenty of legroom, and the seats were in good condition. It was a bit awkward to be traveling alone since usually I always sit next to Dan. Not to mention my neighbor must have thought I was strange for taking pictures of everything!

Plenty of legroom!

The menu was distributed as well as drink and warm nuts. I quite like the warm nuts, and the wine was very mild which I liked too!

The salad with mozzarella cheese was surprisingly good. The cheese was so soft it reminded me of my favorite burrata cheese! The bread was also served warm with butter. However, the spring roll was a total disappointment. It probably had been seating in the freezer for a while since the wrapper was rock hard and did not taste like a spring roll at all. :( 

Salad, bread, spring roll

Service on this flight was exceptional. I am used to mediocre service on US based carriers, but the stewardess on this flight was amazing. I think her name was Gloria. For the main entree, I had the beef dish which was so so. I only had a couple bites to eat since I wasn't that hungry.

Beef dish option

I was really looking forward to having the ice cream sundae until I realized it was not a sundae, but just a strawberry ice cream scoop in a chocolate shell. :(  It was still pretty good nonetheless. 

Ice cream in chocolate shell

Breakfast was served about 1.5 hours before landing. I had the fruit plate with yogurt and croissant. I loved how the croissant was served warm, and it was quite tasty!


Overall I enjoyed the United flight. I really liked the 2nd floor as it felt a lot more private and very quiet. The seats were pretty new and clean, and it did lay flat. The service was surprisingly good on this flight, and the one thing that they could improve was food quality.

Next Post: Seoul - Singapore

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Visiting Home: Trip Planning

Ever since I moved to the US for college, I have always tried to go back home to Indonesia at least once a year. I think there was only one year where I didn't go home during Christmas. Lately I found it harder to find time to go home, partly due to other trips being planned and not enough vacation days. I finally had a break in my job where I could take a month off and decided to go home to visit my family for two weeks. Unfortunately, Dan couldn't come with me this time...and this was our longest time apart since we got married.

I thought about visiting Seoul on the way since I've never been, but in the end decided to go straight home, with a brief one night layover in Singapore. Since I've been to Singapore many, many times, the main purpose of this visit was just to visit a friend who had just given birth. I also planned to visit the new Marina Bay Sands, and eat some of my favorite local Singaporean food. For Indonesia, I didn't plan much but visiting family, friends, eat some local food, and get cheap massages. :)

Some of my closest friends back home

Here's the breakdown of my trip:

San Francisco - Seoul
Seoul - Singapore
Singapore layover
Singapore - Jakarta
Activities & Food in Jakarta
Jakarta - Singapore - Seoul
Seoul - Los Angeles - San Francisco

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Where we've been...

Sorry we've been very quiet this past few weeks. Things have been quite hectic, and we are just now settling back to our "normal" life. :)

I was able to take a month off from work and went home to visit my family in Indonesia for 2 weeks. Afterwards we went to Chicago where we had an AMAZING dinner at Alinea, one of the best restaurants in the US. We rounded up our trip with a quick weekend getaway to Dana Point (Orange County) to celebrate our 2 year anniversary. Now we're finally back home and back to our day-to-day life...

We actually don't have any other big trips planned for a while, other than my sister's wedding in a couple months...

And for the first time in a long time, I really don't have anything planned after that...
Although, it might change if I got the travel bug again...haha

I will post our trip reports soon... In the mean time, here's a preview of one of our courses at Alinea.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Trip Summary

This is a continuation of our Munich & South Africa trip. You can find the full trip itinerary here. 

We had a really great time in South Africa! The planning took a lot of research, but I enjoyed it. As I mentioned previously, I planned the trip mostly myself with the exception the safari since I got a better rate booking through an agent.

Us in Franschhoek at the Boschendal Wine Estate

Our favorite was by far the safari! We would highly recommend everyone to do a safari at least once. We hope to be able to do it again one day. :) Franschhoek was also wonderful and we would definitely want to go back. It was such a relaxing town with beautiful views and great food. Cape Town was pretty but felt very touristy. We did really enjoy the Test Kitchen, and it was definitely the best food during our trip. Johannesburg wasn't our favorite and unless you plan to visit other sights such as Sandton, Gold Reef City, etc. I wouldn't recommend a special trip to just Johannebsurg.

Some highlights from our trip:
  • Our first safari -- it was really cool to be on a safari and be around animals in the wild
  • Our first trip to the African continent -- hopefully not our last!
  • Our longest spa experience together -- 3.5 hours of pure bliss and relaxation!
  • First trip together flying in business class -- we're spoiled for life :p
  • Outstanding food at the Test Kitchen -- Definitely one of our top 3 meals ever

Here are a couple of tips from our experience:
  • Tipping: Similar to the US, tipping is customary in South Africa. You can tip around 10% for services and at restaurants.  There are sometimes random parking/street attendants that watch your car; you can give them 2-5 Rand. If you do go on a safari, definitely tip the ranger and tracker. Tip them in person if you can as it is more personal and you know that they receive the tip directly. There is also usually a staff tip box also for lodges/guesthouses.  
  • Safety: People are generally really nice and friendly. However, just like Indonesia, due to the gap between the haves and have nots, we still saw a lot of poverty in South Africa. We saw shanty towns next to nicer areas, and there were some people asking for money in certain areas -- something to be aware of. A lot of people are worried about safety. Generally speaking, just be aware of your surroundings and do not wear heavy jewelry or overly luxurious stuff. 
  • Weather: We went in March/April which is South Africa's fall season. Weather was around 70-80 F throughout our stay with some rain showers, but overall we had really great weather. Their peak season is December/January. Low season starts in May and you can typically get really good rates in May or September/October/November.
  • Currency: South Africa has their own currency (Rand). We used our credit card that had no foreign transaction fees for most of our purchases. We did have to get cash to pay for some of the tours, and I recommend just withdrawing from ATM as opposed to exchanging money.
  • Driving: South Africans drive on the left side of the road. It took a while for Dan to get used to it, but generally driving was ok--well marked street signs, paved roads, etc. We didn't drive much in the city though, only to/from Franschhoek, which probably made it easier. We didn't need an international license, just our local US state license to bring and show the rental car agency.
  • Cost: Food prices in South Africa are really good and quite cheap compared to the U.S.  Hotel prices are also very reasonable, with the exception of the safari portion. The safari can get really expensive, but there are cheaper options if you don't need a luxury lodge for your stay.

Thanks for reading and let us know if you have any questions :)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Frankfurt - San Francisco

This is a continuation of our Munich & South Africa trip. You can find the full trip itinerary here. 

We arrived in Munich on time, and after passing security & passport control, we headed to our gate. We were actually looking forward to taking a shower to refresh after the flight from South Africa. We noticed that there's actually a separate business and first class lounge for EVERY gate. So it was not a centralized lounge like we were used too. At first I thought it was a bit of a waste to put so much resource and space for each gate, however it was probably necessary for our A380 plane since the business class took up the whole second floor of the aircraft.

We had about 3 hours to kill, and we were disappointed to find out that there was no showers available at the gate lounge. There's only toilets. But oh well. There were choices of soft drinks, tea, water, wine, beer (of course), fruits, sandwiches, yogurt, and fruit.

After some snacks and just hanging around, boarding started, and it was nice to be able to board directly to our A380. We saw how big the plane was; it was quite impressive. It looked like the whole upper section was dedicated for business class passengers. And even though we were on the upper floor, since we boarded directly from the gate, we didn't take the stairs on the airplane, so in a way it didn't quite feel like we were on the second floor. We were seated in 11 A & C which was the second row. The seat configuration was 2-2-2.

The seats were very similar to our first leg from San Francisco to Munich. It did feel even newer. The only negative was that the monitor was fixed, and we could only move it slightly up/down but not around.

One of the unique things we noticed was an extra storage space below the window which was the smartest thing! Usually I had to stow my handbag in the overhead bin, and it could be quite a hassle. Now, I could just put my handbag inside the storage space right next to me. Loved it!

As usual, I got the orange juice and Dan got the champagne.

Here's a shot of the menu. Since this was a morning flight, the food service was lunch and then a light snack.

Food on this flight was a bit disappointing. Let's start off with the appetizer: I got the salmon confit with cucumber apple salad, and everything was still semi-frozen. I could actually still see the ice on everything. Maybe because everything was still frozen, it was a bit tasteless.

Dan got the Roulade of Guinea fowl, and similar as mine, it was still semi frozen. We also got a pretzel bread each.

For the entree I got the orzo vegetable risotto, and it was actually quite tasty. I liked how it was cooked, and the sauce was just enough tomato sauce and slight saltiness from the olives. It was nicely done.

Dan got the cod with potato. It was ok, but it really reminded me of a microwave dinner.

For dessert we got the rhubarb/yogurt cake which was not bad. The mousse was light and not overly sweet.

Since it was Easter weekend, we got a chocolate Easter bunny!

We watched a couple movies, took a nap, and then woke up for our snack before landing. I got the celery ravioli and another pretzel bread. The tray also came with the riesling tart. The celery ravioli was not bad, but the tart was a bit disappointing.

Dan got the 3 small snacks which were:
  • Venison ham/fig walnut chutney
  • Smoked trout/cucumber cream/keta caviar
  • Mousse of chicken liver/apricot compote/cream cheese/pumpernickle
Hmm, originally we thought that it would be a choice of one of the 3 snacks, but it actually came as a set of 3. When we saw how small it was, it made sense why it was served that way. We were not a fan of these 3 dishes. Everything felt a bit confused, and the taste was just too different for us.


It was nice to be able to try Lufthansa's business class product on the new Airbus A380. The seat was quite spacious, and the cabin was pretty quiet the whole time. It helped that the headphones provided were noise cancelling (or at least semi noise cancelling). Service was good and not abrasive. Even though the seat was not fully flat, we didn't mind it. The only minor complaint was that the monitor was not very adjustable so sometimes it's a bit hard to watch shows or movies. Other than that, we really enjoyed our long haul trip in Lufthansa's business class.

Next Post: Trip Summary