When in Rome...& Vatican

My heart turned upside down at the time I saw the earthquake in Italy. The ruins, the victims, the gloomy feeling made me deeply sad. I don't know when I can visit that beautiful country again yet the urge to explore it is always here, in my heart.

If I flash backed a bit, it was in early March this year, my friends and I were enjoying our Europe trip. Then we decided to spend our last days in Rome and Vatican. Rome is the capital city of Italy while Vatican is the smallest state in the world by both area and population.

As I stayed in Venice before so after leaving this romantic floating city in a water taxi, then off we went on a four-hour train heading to Termini Station, Rome.

Arrived in Rome and felt a bit dizzy with a cold wind, cloudy weather, dusty surrounding, and several beggars who kept asking money. I asked a police officer about our hotel's direction and walked along the area to find the hotel. A bit shocked to see our hotel. It's an old one. Yes, when we booked the hotel we just focus on affordable hotel nearby Termini Station but never thought that it could be this OLD. Okay, no complaint, we just need a place to sleep anyway. 

The next morning we walked to Termini Station and took train to Colloseum (iconic ancient Roman gladiatorial arena) and the adventure started there. All other tourist spots are within the area such as: Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Piazza Novena, etc. Rome history is one of the oldest occupied sites in Europe since it has been more than two and a half thousands years. Its historic centre is listed by Unesco as a World Heritage Site. 

Every first week of the month Colosseum and other tourist spots nearby are free of charge. I guess it's our lucky day when we realised that 6 March is the first week of the month so we could enjoy these magnificent spots for FREE.

We ended this trip in Vatican. Enjoying a big lunch and browsing around the souvenir shops that offer a much cheaper price comparing to other European countries. To wrap up, all you need for Rome and Vatican exploration is strong legs since you'll walk A LOT...#BalurBalsem.

Another 43rd Birthday

Yes, this is the second 43rd birthday that we celebrate this year. The first one was mine in January and today is my hubby's birthday.

Happy birthday to the most awesome daddy on the planet
Wishing you an ocean of happiness that life can give you

We love you :)


A Hundred Flowers

Title: A Hundred Flowers
Author: Gail Tsukiyama
St. Martin's Press New York, 2012
288 pages

Let a hundred flowers bloom; let a hundred schools of thought contend.
--Mao Tse-Tung, 1956

Another book from Big Bad Wolf Books, a hardcover version of A Hundred Flowers written by Gail Tsukiyama, with only IDR 60K.  Tsukiyama is an American novelist. She was born in San Francisco to a Japanese father and a Chinese mother. 

This is a novel based on China history. The setting was 1957 when Chairman Mao declared a new openness in China. Lots intellectuals fearing that it was a trap, Kai Ying's husband, Sheng, a teacher was arrested for writing a letter criticising the Communist Party. He was sent to a labor camp to be "reeducated."

A year later, seven-year-old Tao is climbing to the top of the huge kapok tea in front of their home in order to find his father but his foot slips into the air, sending him tumbling thirty feet to the courtyard below which finally makes his mother and grandpa panic. 

This is a story of Tao, his father, Sheng, his mother, Kai Ying, and his grandfather, Wei. The story was told by different characters in the 3rd person. The author paid close attention to details and descriptive language that in the end painting a vivid picture of the daily life of Kai Ying and her family.

The author's tenderness in delivering the story make it easy to become involved in the story. An intimate look of how a family suffered through a cultural revolution. 

I guess I need to find other books written by Tsukiyama. I just love her writing style. Unputdownable.

A Short Getaway: Yogyakarta

Bukit Rhema, Magelang
Just returned from a-three-day Yogyakarta trip. I went there with my three college friends. After trapped in the family and works stuff  for sometime, finally we got the opportunity to spend our leisure time together. 
Yes, we went up to the top of Bukit Rhema

Inspired by AADC 2 the movie (although two of us have not even watched the first part of AADC. Pathetic, right???) however the urge to just go somewhere with old time buddies seemed so tempting. 

We started the journey by having breakfast at Soto Kadipiro that as always having its best soto in town then off to Bukit Rhema, Magelang. People calls this place 'Gereja Ayam' although according to our rental car driver, Pak Wahid,  it's actually a house of prayer in the form of a pigeon not a chicken. We entered the place even went up to the top in order to catch its beautiful view. The place is being renovated so it's a bit dusty there. The power of AADC 2 is quite strong. After giving a very positive impacts to Belitung with Laskar Pelangi the movie, now it's Yogyakarta's turn. All places spotted in AADC 2 now become very popular even Yogya is getting crowded with its traffic jam. 
Greenhouse Boutique Hotel
Awesome hydroponic farm at Greenhost Boutique Hotel Rooftop

From Magelang, we went back to Yogyakarta to do check in at our hotel. We stayed at one of the  happening hotels in Yogya, Greenhost Boutique Hotel at Prawirotaman. This hotel was built with a special design and message. Yes, it's declared as a green hotel. It's obviously shown when we arrived at the hotel and welcomed by its green vertical garden. One other thing that amazed us is the hydroponic vegetables farm at the hotel rooftop. What is more beautiful than that? Every part of the hotel is well crafted. All spots are instagrammable. Not to forget the breakfast menu, they served a wide varieties of yummy food. 
Gumukpasir, Parangkusumo

After finished check in, we had our late lunch at RM Bu Ageng. A very popular restaurant owned by Butet Kertarajasa. Love the food here. Everything is yummy. Highly recommended.

With a happy tummy, we headed to Gumuk Pasir, Parangkusumo. This place is also beautiful. We caught a couple who took their pre-wedding pictures here. We enjoyed the sunset there.

On the way back to our hotel, we dropped by at Mount Merapi Bistro for having dinner. We ended the first day with tiring body yet happy heart.
Istana Ratu Boko

Second day, started by taking pictures at Plekung Gading then continued to Taman Sari, Padepokan Bagong Kusudiarjo and Malioboro (I know it's very mainstream but it turned out that we never get bored of Malioboro and Pasar Beringharjo). Having lunch at Lokal Resto. Resto kece with a good food. Next destination was enjoying sunset at Istana Ratu Boko.
Lokal Resto at Jl. Jembatan Merah
Delicious Nasi Ulam at Lokal Resto

Closed the second day by dropping by at Epic Coffee. This place is awesome. Love every part of the place.
Epic Coffee
Epic Coffee tagline

On our last day we were off to Kaliurang. Joining Merapi Lava Tour in a jeep, visiting Ullen Sentalu Museum and having lunch at D'Padukan, a peaceful restaurant with  a rice field view.  

All in all we enjoyed the moment. After being friends for 24 years, this trip is kind of an intimate reunion for us. Good friends are the best medicine.

Look Who's Back

Title: Look Who's Back (Er Ist Wieder Da)
Author: Timur Vermes
Translated from the German by: Jamie Bulloch
Maclehose Press Quercus-London
Paperback Edition, 2015
375 pages

Every time I go overseas, I plan to buy a book in the bookshop there. So instead of having a key chain, a fridge magnet or even a Starbucks tumbler, I have a book as the memento of the country I visit. On my Europe trip a few months ago, I bought Look Who's Back at Schipol airport, Amsterdam, first I was attracted with the pink sticker said 'Airport Favourite' then got more curious when reading the synopsis which tells what happens when Adolf Hitler wakes up now.  

This is a debut novel of Timur Vermes, a German writer. The book becomes a sensation in Germany. Sold more than a million copies. Check the synopsis here: You know his name, his face, his hair and mustache and imagine this, Berlin, Summer 2011, Adolf Hitler wakes up on a patch of open ground, alive and well. Things have changed --no Eva Braun, no Nazi party, no war. Hitler barely recognizes his beloved Fatherland, filled with immigrants and run by a woman. And he's FURIOUS when people think he is an impersonator. He's trying hard to convince them that it really is him, and yes, he really MEANS it.

The inevitable happens and Hitler goes viral, become a YouTube star, gets his own T.V. show and people begin to listen. Yes, this book is truly entertaining. All will leave you laugh a lot. Furthermore you will also learn a lot about history and stuff through different point of view. If you are not into history, no worries, the translator attached his Translator's Note at the back of the book mentioning the dates, the political party, the details of occasion and others that will enrich our knowledge.

The book has been translated into 27 languages and in December 2013, Constantin Film bought the rights to make a movie on this book. The movie was released on Netflix on April 2016 as Look Who's Back.

A satire at its best. If you are looking for a good laugh, this is definitely a the book for you.

Find more on Timur Vermes here
Find more on Look Who's Back the book here 

Eid Mubarok 1437 H

Ketupat and its partners
We spent our Eid al-Fitr in Lampung. We decided to go there on the second day of Lebaran thinking that the traffic would be less crowded however I guessed most people had the same thoughts as we finally ended up spending almost ten hours from Jakarta to Bandar Lampung. I know it's not as horror as Brexit (Brebes Exit) yet it's still tiring and traumatizing (especially for the girls who kept asking, "when will we arrive, Ma?").

At the (old) Ferry
The things that I noticed during our mudik trip was the toll road from Jakarta to Merak was okay. Not too crowded, it's still smooth. Then arrived at Merak, we have to wait for the ferry for almost 1,5 hours. I remembered during 1990s when my father was assigned by his office to Lampung and I was so familiar with Merak-Bakauheni and the ferry. I got de javu feeling at Merak and Bakauheni since everything looked the same. Old ferry, crowded with people sitting at every corner of it while ordering Pop Mie. Even Bakauheni also showed similar feeling. Nothing new. Jeez...it's been more than 20 years but the facility are still the same. The different things that I couldn't find in the old days was now more and more people went mudik using their motorcycle. One family with lots of stuff and kids and sometimes even babies. Dear God. My thoughts and prays went to them.

Other big project is Sumatra Toll Road that is still on the making. It's planned to be launched next year. But looking at the great numbers of motorcycles and cars sales in Jakarta, I don't think this toll road will make such a huge difference for next year Lebaran. No, I am not being  skeptical to our government and such, but I am just horrified seeing the heavy traffic each day. If only the government focus more on providing a reliable and affordable public transport, I guess people will start to leave their private cars at home. Hopefully this is not just a dream. Jakarta and its heavy traffic are a very serious issue now.

Tired of asking questions
By the way, we stayed at The 7th Hotel and Convention Center Lampung. Quite a new hotel that was launched by President Jokowi end of last year. Nice and clean place, spacious room, affordable price for a-four-star hotel and our favorite is their rich varieties of breakfast. We're sure that this place is one of our favorite hotels in Lampung.  

Tabungan Kebahagiaan

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. 
So throw off the bowlines, sail away from a safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails.

Explore. Dream. Discover

--Mark Twain

It's already the 17th day of Ramadan. Yes, it does fly. Najla and Zea welcome this sacred month wholeheartedly. They are already on super LONG school holiday. When I asked what their favourite part of Ramadan is and they said, "An afternoon walk while looking for ta'jil is the best part." Never thought that this simple activities could mean the world to them. The power of Ngabuburit.

Although having breakfasting in a mall is totally not us however there're some invitations that I couldn't miss such as meeting my travel mates. Since our trip to Europe last March, we haven't met again yet. We drowned in our works and other bits and pieces. And Ramadan is the best moment, finally we could get together for a sudden reunion.  

We asked one of our friends about her next trip plan and she said, "Belum ada rencana apa-apa. Pulang dari Eropa, dompet masih kosong TAPI hati masih penuh. Sampai akhir tahun ini rasanya TABUNGAN KEBAHAGIAAN masih berlimpah, jadi belum perlu kemana-mana."

Take vacations
Go as many places as you can
You can always make money
but you can't always make memories.