Considering to get in touch with local people, I tried to book accommodation through the famous site AirBnB. After a few e-mail exchanges with one of the host, the host mentioned that she had room for me. I was glad that I would stay at a local’s house, but it did not happen. My request was cancelled just a few hours before my flight.
I was so worried. I was freaking out. It was about 10 p.m, my flight would be at 8 a.m and I realized that I would not have accommodation upon my arrival. It must be a joke! However, it was not a big deal, it was manageable. I immediately booked a room from booking.com. Even though it was manageable, this experience gave me the impression that my NYC trip might not be going to be as fun as I thought it would be. Nevertheless, I was still excited anyway.
Friday morning, I arrived in the U.S. It took me an hour and half-hour of flight from Toronto Billybishop Airport of Canada to Newark Liberty International Airport of the U.S. I have not reached my final destination yet. I still had to take another 30 minutes of train ride from the airport to New York Penn Station with NJ Transit Train to get to downtown Manhattan.
However, as soon as I stepped out of New York Penn Station, I got my heartbroken. My excitement level dropped significantly. The city does not appear as magnetic as it is on the television. In fact, it is very repellent. New York City is just very dirty, messy and crowded. There are just too much traffic as well as construction works. This condition made me thinking to cut my trip short before I even tested the water.
Are you sure? I asked myself. No! I guess I am just tired. It is not wise to make a decision when I am unhappy. I answered.
It was only 11 a.m when I reached to Manhattan. I immediately checked-in to the Rogers New York Hotel in Madison Avenue; unfortunately, I could not get into the room until 3 p.m. I wondered what I should do for the next four hours and where I should go to. I do not know. As this was my first visit to NYC, there were just too many tourist attractions that I wanted to visit, including Times Square, Liberty Statue, Ground Zero, Central Park, etc.
In order to go to those places, I had to use google maps on my iPhone because I simply was not familiar with the city; but then again, I had other problems because I only had 40 per cent of phone battery power and I had no portable charger. On top of that, I was so starving. Darn!
It made me more annoyed, cranky, devastated and also frustrated. The perfect combination to be grumpy and dislike NYC. Nevertheless, I must not let it ruin my weekend gateway and all I need to do is to grab some foodie before I wandered about and did anything.
As I walked down in 33 Street to grab some foodie, I saw some grey line city bus tour‘s salesman offering their services to tourist. It attracted me so I seek for the information about what kind of deal that they had for me. After 10 minutes of conversation, they offered me 51 bucks of NYC Pass. NYC Pass can be used for Downtown, Brooklyn, Bronx as well as Night Tour within 48 hours. He also mentioned that the NYC Pass is including a ferry ticket. So I guess, it was not a bad deal at all!
Considering the deal that they offered me, I decided to use their services to stroll around downtown Manhattan on the top of the bus. I thought it would be the easiest way to get Lil bit of everything in the city. That way, I did not have to depend on my phone and keep some battery.
Frankly, I used to be very sceptical about the city sightseeing bus services, it seems very tacky to me. Nonetheless, I did enjoy the tour and got a sense of downtown Manhattan. It was 5.30 p.m; I ended my bus tour in Rockefeller Center and walked down to Times Square, the most crowded tourist attraction that I have ever been and I H.A.T.E it!
Since I left Toronto, I was up for 14 hours and had only 3 hours of sleep. I just felt very drained out. I really wanted to go back to the hotel and took a nap. However, I had no idea how to get there. My phone was off, the almighty google maps were unable to help me. I tried to grab a cab but I could not get any after hailing cabs for nearly an hour. I was about to cry.
“Geez…. what a start?! I wore the wrong footwear to walk around, I got lost, I got sunburn and my phone was off. I just want to lay down now but how?!.”
I looked away to solve my minor yet devastating problem. I said to myself that I need a portable charger. So, I went to the nearest electronic shop to get a portable charger. However, after purchasing the portable charger, I realized that I actually did not bring my iPhone cable. What a drag?! How could I turn my phone on?! Should I purchase for iPhone cable (again)? No way! I felt so stupid.
Recognizing that I had a problem, a friendly Israelite shop keeper showed me how to get back to my hotel. He told me that my hotel is actually only three blocks away from his shop. I was so happy to hear that. I just could not wait to lay down and catch some sleep after all the long walk in uncomfortable footwear and the sunburn. All I wanted to do was sleeping.
Honestly, I actually hate the idea of using it because it can shorten the longevity of battery; but, somehow it just is the best life safer while you are travelling.
On my way to the hotel, I stopped in a convenience store to get myself some snacks; I was extremely starving and thirsty. A friendly New Yorker said hi and talked to me; he asked how my day was going. As I was tired and upset, I started rambling. I just told him that I got my heart broken because NYC is not as magical as it is in the film or tv series; the city is dirty and crowded; it was just hard to get around to and thought to cut my trip short and return to TO.
“Don’t cut your trip short, I can give you a lot of recommendation for places or things to do here,” he said. “And I’d love to take you out for a drink. Perhaps that way you won’t think that everyone in NYC is an asshole,” he said.
He also offered me to go to the beach to celebrate “Beach Day” with his friends because the country celebrates “Beach Day”, I am not sure what Beach Day actually is. Another stranger offered me the same thing because the city celebrated “Beach Day”.
I was so surprised that a total stranger could just talk to me and ask me to go out for a drink like that in NYC. It did not only happen once but a couple of times in a coffee shop and convenience store on the daylight. I mean, I understand if it happens in the bars or social media; but in the convenience store or coffee shop on the daylight?! Really?!
I mean, not trying to show off but I often got compliments in TO as walking down the road, either because of my hair cut, my shoes, my shade or my outfit by total strangers. But getting an invitation for a drink, coffee and dinner by a stranger on the street? It is surprising!
Other than that, some people also said that New Yorkers are ignorance and rude; yet, it did not appear that way while I was there. I was wondering whether it is just the nature of New Yorker, friendly and nice, or is it something else? I must say that even though it is surprising but it made me feel very welcome and flattered at the same time.
This is a unique stage portrait of Minahasan life which is passing by me as I am enjoying the early morning tropical breeze by the beach on Gangga Island. Gangga Island is an isolated white sand beach destination in 150 hectares of natural garden setting 3 kilometers north of the coast of North Sulawesi. Minahasa is one of the races in North Sulawesi.
Subsequent to having breakfast, I am getting ready to explore the world under water by catching the boat to one of the snorkeling spots. I am sure, it will be an excellent experience, as this area is the part of the world’s Coral Triangle. However, I am not going diving but I am just going snorkeling.
Surrounded by the silence of the island, I walk down to the wharf, where a sexy locally made boat has been waiting for our group.
“Hello, good morning. How are you?” said Ayoub, a Minahasan boat crew, greeting us with a friendly smile before we get into the boat. The engine comes to life and we are ready to sail to the waters of neighboring Tindila Island.
Moving further away from Gangga Island, leaving a trail of bubbles which disappear into the sea after only a few second we reach the snorkeling spot above a reef tinged in light blue after only ten minutes sailing.
While we are waiting patiently to jump into the water, we are given some guidance by Anton, the snorkeling guide, which must be listened to for our safety under water. Afterwards, one by one, my group slips over the side into the sea.
“Wow! This is wonderful” I say to myself. It is so beautiful and so different with the world above water in which I live. I feel as though I am flying freely like an Alap-alap hawk in the air, watching the fish peacefully lead their lives in an around the reef.
I can see a blue star fish, which look so calm and still, gumming itself to the ground. Or, over there, there’s an active small blue fish with a yellow tail. They call them Chrysiptera parasema, which like to move here and there. Pretty clouds of fish of many varieties swim all around me. On one occasion, Anton shows us where hundreds or might be thousands of fish are moving here and there in a large group. “It is indeed a wonderful world of fish.”
They are magnificent. They look like a great group of human being who want to move somewhere, whether because they feel panic or excitement as we approach them.
I don’t know how to describe this beautiful life under the water, although it is my job to. An amazing natural ecosystem seemingly without any human touch upon it. However I can see part of the coral that has been bombed. Destroyed and dead. A sign that our fishermen once used dynamite instead of their nets and their talent.
But local government, cooperating with the community are working together to restore these broken fish reef homes and preserve coral ecosystem. It is a great chance that I have to be here. On a clear sunny day, I am exploring the world under waters around the Tindila Island for more than an hour. But, unfortunately, we must finish our trespassing because suddenly the currents bring a sea covered in garbage.
“It is strange that so much rubbish is floating in this area. The local government should have taken an action to keep this environment clean. Well, not just the government actually, but also the local people and passing ships who throw the garbage in the sea.” Tommy Davis, a Canadian tourist, who is disappointed with the floating garbage.
The garbage forces us to stop snorkeling, and after a short break on Tindila Island for few minutes before we sail back to Gangga Island.
Once again, I would say that this is a special part of the world. But the occasional wave of rubbish atop the sea almost ruins a spectacular setting; however there is more to see. The blue water, the tropical rain forest, the local fisherman and the underwater world are just part of a unique isolated paradise off the north coast of North Sulawesi.
While wondering about the secrets of this little island, Anton and Ayoub circumnavigate Gangga Island. In only 150 ha, this island has just two villages. Comically named Gangga Satu and Gangga Dua. From the boat, I can tell that Gangga Satu and Gangga Dua are two very different villages but similar at the same time.
Different in how the way they build and develop their fishermen village and facilities. But both remain undeveloped and poor. Interestingly, one is noticeable for its several mosques, and the other two Church spires. While a handful of motorbikes busied themselves on the seafront one could not see any vehicles.
However, Gangga Satu is a slightly more developed village, where an environment friendly resort, “Gangga Island”, was built and developed. As the only resort on the Gangga Island, it trains and employs members of the local community. It reminds me of a conversation that I had with Hanne Harbol, General Manager of Gangga Island, last night, in which she said that they are seeking to preserve the environment both human and natural.
“We have a program for the local society, especially for the kids. Every month, we will ask them to come here and introduce them with the sea’s ecosystem. This program is meant to protect this island from the damage, whether neither in the land nor in the sea”. But the big question is what about all the garbage?
Thinking about that conversation, the things I saw, heard, tasted and smelled, it makes me speechless and I realize how beautiful this Indonesian island is, and that there are many more of them. However, I wonder how we will take care of them all. Precious that they are they are not crowded with people, vehicles, office buildings and shopping malls. The peaceful natural world is more than enough and this is what I am looking for by coming here, a white sand beach holiday which is far from the modern life and business city.
Finally, having gone around the island we arrive at the wharf. I am feeling so happy for the experience that I had today. The world under water, the garbage, the island, the people, the current and everything that I am seeing are wonderful. I am smiling as much as I ever have, as I walk back to my bungalow to get ready before having a Minahasan meal for my hungry stomach.
It is indeed a great day, but the day has not ended yet as the blue sky is slowly turning into red as the sun dips towards the horizon. Under the vanilla sky, I sit by the beach, enjoying the dusk with the sillouettes of the fishermen sailing past me, one by one, on their way home The only sounds being the rattle of an old outboard engine and the breaking waves on the beach.
Few years ago, I was introduced to courchsurfing.org by a friend of mine, a blogger from multiply.com (I was still active blogging with multiply.com platform back then, too bad that it has been shut down now because I love that platform so much as I have been blogging with that platform since 2005 : ( ). I found that couchsurfing.org was interesting because I could meet many different kind of people with different kind of stories such as where they have been to, how they saved money for traveling, how much money they spent in certain country, where to stay, listen to their point of view about other cultures, etc. I would say that it is fun.
So in 2009, I decided to sign up and create a profile in couchsurfing.org to get new friends and meet new people from all over the world. Unfortunately, I was not particularly that active because I started my job in Jakarta and did not really have time for myself. My work and the Jakarta traffic made me lazy to attend some gatherings because I was too tired
However luckily, I had the opportunity to meet number of amazing people and young travelers, which opened my eyes about life. I met four European girls, who studied in Singapore in 2010; a 21 Australian boy who has been traveling to 70 countries after he managed to save for two or three years since he was 16 (he didn’t go to senior high school if I was not mistaken); an Italian photographer who stayed in hundreds of couch while he was traveling and many more. Most of them have great story and are very down to earth.
I was amazed but jealous at the same time with their ability to travel around the world. So why am I jealous? It is not because of their financial flexibility but Indonesian citizen doesn’t really have an easy access visiting a country, especially European, American and also Australian country.
We have to apply for tourist visa, complete a bunch of document, pay a lot of money for the visa with the possibility of losing it if we were rejected. While most of Westerner (Lucky you people!) have the privilege to come and go visiting the developing country very easy such Indonesia, India, Thailand, Vietnam, etc. Right?!
I actually have a hell lot of things to complain about but I will leave it there because I know that I am luckier than them, who comes from third world country or African country. I am grateful with what I got.
But anyway…. so here I was being profiled by an Italian couchsurfer in La Republica, an Italian newspaper on August 2010. I think I will activate my couchsurfing profile again to find a new activity in 2014.
In the end of 2009, I had the opportunity to visit Kenya, East Africa. It was my first big trip to travel to another side of the world. In my wildest dream as a 22 years old Indonesian girl, I had never thought that I want to go to Africa for holiday especially media have been repeatedly portrayed Africa as a ‘scary’ holiday destination.
Apparently, Kenya is such an idylic place with beautiful scenery. While I was in Kenya, we went for camping at Maasai Mara for three days, went to Lake Magadi and Diani beach. I really enjoyed my trip to Kenya. It was quiet different and adventurous.
Here I am sharing some of my snapshots from my trip. The pictures were taken with Casio Exilim pocket camera. I was not really satisfied with the picture. Hence some of the pictures were edited with iPhoto. I hope you enjoy those pictures.
I am looking forward for more trip to another African country in the near future.
Hari itu, saya berangkat ke Semarang dengan pesawat Garuda pukul 5:50 pagi. Setelah menempuh perjalanan udara selama kurang lebih satu jam, pesawat mendarat di Bandara Internasional Ahmad Yani pukul 7:00. Saya enggak tahu apa yang harus saya lakukan di Semarang sepagi itu karena saya baru akan menemui nara sumber saya pada pukul 1 siang.
Mata berat. Saya masih ngantuk. Saya butuh kafein untuk membuat saya tetap terjaga. Namun sayang, saya enggak melihat adanya decent coffee shop di terminal kedatang Bandara Ahmad Yani. Ummm…. Baiklah! Ketimbang saya komplen lebih baik saya cuci muka saja di rest room agar lebih segar.
Namun lagi-lagi, ada satu hal yang hendak membuat saya kesal. Sa… ngat kesal.
Jam tangan saya menunjukkan pukul 7: 22 menit. Hari masih pagi namun antrian enam orang perempuan tua sudah mengular di kamar mandi perempuan. Mereka semua berbalutkan baju kebaya sederhana dilengkapi dengan kain selendang sebagai penutup kepala. Dari cara mereka berbicara, mereka sepertinya datang dari Tegal atau Cilacap.
Sedangkan di salah satu bilik toilet, seorang petugas kebersihan sibuk membersihkan salah satu bilik toilet dengan kloset duduk yang basah kuyup di mana-mana, baik dari kloset duduknya sendiri, dinding pembatas, pintu dan juga lantai.
Selesai membersihkan bilik toilet, petugas kebersihan tersebut mendekati salah seorang perempuan tua yang hendak masuk ke dalam bilik toilet.
“Bu… ngertos caranipun ngagem wc duduk mboten? (Bu tahu cara pakai wc duduk enggak?)” tanya petugas kebersihan dengan ramah dan sabar.
“Yen mboten, kula ajari. (Kalau enggak tahu, saya ajari” tambahnya.
Si ibu yang hendak masuk ke dalam bilik toilet tersebut pun menerima tawaran dari si petugas kebersihan. Dengan ramah dan sabar, petugas kebersihan tersebut mengajarkan ibu tersebut bagaimana menggunakan kloset duduk.
Saya yang tadinya merasa kesal karena panjangnya antrian, terhentak melihat kejadian tersebut. Si petugas kebersihan dengan senang hati dan sabar membatu para pengunjung bandara yang asing dengan penggunaan kloset duduk.
Saya penasaran dengan motivasi si petugas kebersihan. Saat antrian telah habis, saya pun bertanya pada petugas kebersihan tersebut.
“Kenapa Ibu mau ngajari ibu-ibu tadi untuk menggunakan kloset duduk?” tanya saya
“Ya… mereka kan datang dari desa. Mereka asing dengan kloset duduk. Saya lebih baik ngajari mereka satu per satu agar nantinya kalau mereka menemui kloset duduk lagi, mereka tahu cara menggunakannya. Bukan jongkok di kloset duduk atau pipis di lantai.” tuturnya sembari membersihkan wastafel.
“Toh, kita sama-sama perempuan. Jadi ndak masalah.” tambahnya.
Kejadian ini mengajarkan saya untuk berbesar hati membantu sesama tanpa mengharapkan imbalan sepeserpun, apalagi mengingat gaji mereka yang kecil. Saya yakin, bukan imbalan duniawi yang mereka dapatkan namun imbalan surgawi yang akan mereka dapatkan.
Sayang, saya lupa menanyakan namanya.