My last stop in Singapore was the observation deck at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. Pretty typical tourist spot, but the views from the 57th floor are unbeatable. You get a sneak peek of Gardens By the Bay from above and it was nice for me to survey my morning walk- my last post was photos from the park in front of the clock tower and the Merlion.
I can’t say enough how much I love the rainbow seats. Would it have been easier to go with a uniform seat color? Probably, but mixing it up is so much more visually appealing.
My Viking Ballard shirt enjoying a view from the top.
After Marina Bay Sands I had about an hour to walk to the hotel, passing the beautiful Raffles Hotel on the way, check out and head to the airport. But it looks like I’ll hit Singapore one more time before getting my work visa and I’ll have two whole days for exploring!
Singapore, so beautiful and clean! My trips here have all been solo and way too short. I look forward to one day taking a leisurely Singaporean vacation with Joel, but until then I’ll take whatever holiday I can get. Last weekend I made another brief, solo trip to the Lion City. It was just a quick overnight jaunt so the only plans I made were for a long morning walk to do some overdue exploring. One of the things I miss most about life in Seattle is walking! Singapore gets an A+ on walkability, so aiming to take full advantage of those super Singaporean sidewalks, I diligently kept my promise to hit the tourist spots that I missed on my last trip.
My last trip I stayed in Chinatown so this time I switched it up and found a cheap spot in Bugis as to get familiar with a different part of the city. Bugis was an ideal starting point for my morning expedition with its close proximity to the marina. Even on a Monday morning Merlion Park was packed with picture seeking tourists.
My only indulgence on this trip (I didn’t do any shopping) was paying to go the visitors deck at Marian Bay Sands. I’ll be editing and posting that bunch soon.
You have casual Friday, but Indonesia has batik Friday because batik is a big deal. The batik industry was huge in the 18th and 19th century but saw a decline after the Japanese occupation. There was a batik revival in the 21st century after batik came back into favor with designers. Unfortunately Semarang batik did not have much of a revival, but industries in Yogyakarta, Solo and Pekalongan came back stronger than ever.
We visited Batik Winotosastro in Yogyakarta over christmas. It’s a traditional facility with a beautiful showroom and workshop that produces traditional textiles using both hand work and batik cap (pronounced chap). Above are some caps which were on display including a Yoda cap. We also found them making two different Star Wars themed batiks on the day we toured, one (may the force be with you) painstakingly being done by hand and the other a storm trooper cap.
After seeing all the batik in Jogja, we did some research about Semarang batik and eventually we found a small collective of batik shops aptly located on Jalan Batik (Batik Street). It certainly wasn’t the expansive tourist destination like the shops in Jogja, but we did find a batik that was stamped with a Lawang Sewu cap. And of course I had to buy it! See the resemblance?
Our second stop in Ambarawa was the Railway Museum. Built in 1873, it’s one of the only places in the world that still has an operational steam engine. The train now is just for tourists and runs a short, nine kilometer track to the next town and back. We had hoped to take a little ride, but we visited on Saturday not knowing that Sunday is the only day the train runs.
The museum has a long hall that lists historical facts about the railway in Indonesia with plenty of photos of past presidents and dignitaries on trains. There is also, of course, an abundance of vintage trains to play on and cabooses for posing.
Our friend Clark who works with us and also lives in our building joined us for the trip. He and Joel were nice enough to pose for me on the scales.
This family asked Clark if he would be in their photo and he happily obliged. One of the little girls started to cry and the man said, “She’s just crying because your nose is too pointy.” We got a good laugh out of that one.
We were also traveling with our friends Rene and Patricia who also happen to live in our building. Patricia’s mother and son Raymond live in Ambarawa and they met us at the Railway Museum. Patricia was the one who organized our tour at the prison and saved us with her Indonesian when the security guard attempted to turn us away. We were lucky to be able to travel with someone so much knowledge of the area!
As I mentioned before we were told that they only offer rides on Sundays, so we were a little surprised that we saw one of the trains out for a spin after we left. With the age of the steam engines, I assume it takes some time to get them oiled up for service and they probably need a dry run without the pressure of passengers.
On the way out we saw this petite, smiley woman selling jamu- Indonesian traditional medicine. I tried jamu once before and apparently my Indonesian palette isn’t mature enough to enjoy the ground herb concoction . I wasn’t in the market for any jamu, but the woman was nice enough to let me snap a quick portrait regardless.
Our first glimpse of what looked to be an abandoned Dutch fort came on our way back from our Christmas trip to Jogja. Our van had been winding through the jungle for about five hours when we came upon a vast area of rice paddies and Joel spotted some buildings in the distance. The structures looked like collapsing ruins so we assumed that they must be abandoned. Wanting to investigate when we got home, Joel wrote down the name of the town we were in, Ambarawa. We thought if we came back by ourselves we could explore freely. How wrong we were.
After some Googling, we learned that the buildings were indeed built by the Dutch in 1838 and called Benteng (Fort) Willem. It was used as an internment camp by the Japanese to hold 15,000 Europeans during WW2. Our friend Patricia is from Ambarawa so we asked her about Benteng Willem and to our surprise it is far from abandoned. The compound is part of a military complex with lots of administrative buildings, homes and even a still functioning prison. Patricia contacted someone at the prison and arranged for us to tour the areas with the abandoned buildings. When we arrived we were told by the military personnel that there were no tours and Patricia had to let them know that we had prearranged access. Thank goodness she’s a local! Joel and I certainly do not have the Indonesian language skills to have conveyed that message. It was definitely worth our while, as the grounds and buildings were intriguing and have retained some semblance of their original beauty despite their decrepit state.
Joel and our friend Clark that joined us ventured up these stairs to find that the building was pretty fully inhabited and the tenants were less than pleased to see tourists. After that run in we all stayed downstairs.
After Benteng Willem we visited Ambarawa’s train museum. Photos from there and of our whole traveling crew up soon!
Oh Jakarta, a juxtaposition of old and new worlds, so painfully apparent when you see shanty towns with a backdrop of skyscrapers. An urban jungle with a population of 10 million in the city proper, expanding up to 30 million when you include the suburbs. It’s not uncommon for Jakarta to be featured on lists of world’s most hated cities, but after six months in sleepy Semarang, I’m ready for a little city excitement, even if that means battling world class traffic.
From the glitzy malls to the gritty street markets, everywhere was decked out with red lanterns for Chinese New Year. Jakarta is a place where you can truly find anything. In one outing you can pick up a Chanel bag, vintage Dolly Parton vinyls, a cotton candy as big as your head and also pick the best bunch of live frogs from a selection laid out on banana leaves.
Jakarta has an additional form of transportation that we lack in Semarang, the bajai! It’s a three wheeled scooter-car-hybrid. With a small backseat fit for two, it’s my favorite way to zip around downtown Jakarta. I told Joel we should buy a bajai because I feel like it would be easier and safer than me driving a scooter. He said I could have one in the same way parents say “sure you can have a pony!”
Sunday morning is Car Free Day on Sudirman Street, a main street downtown that runs by two big malls. It was close enough that we could walk from our hotel which I loved because I got to look into all the big fancy Jakarta mansions on the way. As usual, all the homes have ornate, iron gates and fences around the property which are typically overgrown with lush plants.
Tuesday morning we took the hour flight back to Semarang, back to daily grind.