Category Archives: Coffee Talk

The Traveler Message Board

Traveler Message Board

There are something romantic looking at the message board, filled with letter, message or photo from traveler passing by. The photo above is from Betel Box Hostel, Singapore.

In the old days, during the early days of backpacking, this is the only way to communicate with fellow backpackers on the road. People would leave a message for their friends who was few days behind, note of interesting place to see, or danger to be avoided.

These kind of message boards have been mostly replaced by email and mobile phone. However, there are seems to be place who provide such message board like Betel Box, just for the romance, and for the sake of old days.

This photo is posted in response to WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Wall. Share an image of a wall that reveals something about a place, people, or you. Also, read the full review of the place where this photo was taken, Betel Box Hostel

One Year Abroad

In response to Daily Prompt: Study Abroad: If you were asked to spend a year living in a different location, where would you choose and why?

Among all of the cities that I have been, I fall in love with 2 cities: Melbourne in Australia, and Shanghai in China. For me, both cities have some characters that make it unique, interesting, and exotic. I think, I will never be able to decide among these 2 cities.

Melbourne, Australia

The city of Melbourne is located at southern tip of Australia’s mainland. It can have 4 seasons in a day. It can be hot and sunny in the morning, which turns to cold and windy in the evening, thanks to the wind from southpole.

Albert Park Lake
Albert Park Lake during winter

But what I like the most is the warmth and pace of the city. During one business trip, I can have a friendly chat with a stranger while waiting for the tram.  Unlike most of big city, people seems to have time for a short chat during commuting.

And as most business close at 5, people have time to spend an evening during summer at the beach. St. Kilda beach is my favorite, as it is within easy reach from the city. Or, when not feeling to go to the beach, I would just spend an evening on the jogging path around Albert Park area.

The warmth and the pace of Melbourne is just right for my soul.

Shanghai, China

I don’t speak Chinese. Nevertheless, I still find the city of Shanghai, China, as a place where I want to stay for a year. Maybe more.

It is the place where the east meet west. There are specific area designated as French Concession, and British Concession area, where the European-style architecture is in contrast with Old Chinese building. It is as if you are in Europe, with a lot of Chinese people wandering around.

Light at Yuyuan Garden
Yuyuan Garden at Night

It is the place where you can see the modern China. Yet, the classic Chinese building is still well preserved. My favorite is Yuyuan Garden, a Ming-style garden at the heart of old Shanghai. From Yuyuan Garden, within a walking distance to The Bund, one can marvel at the modern city and building across the Huang Pu river.

So…., what is your favorite city?

Backpackers and Courtesy

Another article has been posted on why backpackers get a bad name, and being disliked. It seems that the focus of being able to travel with lowest possible cost has took out the important element of being human: courtesy. And this is not courtesy to strangers, but to someone who has hosted you in their house so that you can save some hotel expense and prolong your backpacking trip.

Back in 2006, I was on a half backpacking trip to Flores. We are being hosted in a Monastery next to a Church. For 4 days, the Head Priest took us around the city with Monastery’s car, and even invite us for dinner together with all the Priests. It was such a good experience. All of us love it, and even until today, I still get invitation to come and stay at the Church. While on the last day we did give some donation, it is how we interact with them that leave the impression.

Unless you are staying at some religious building, your host will mostly reject monetary gift. In this case, the easiest way to give back is to show some courtesy. Back to my Flores trip, in addition to donation, here is some courtesy that we showed to our host:

  1. Help out in the kitchen. We helped to clean some vegetables, cut few carrots, roll some dough, and many more. This courtesy don’t even cost a penny, but really give a huge impact and chances to get your host better.
  2. Share the cost, such as gas, toll, and parking if you go with your host, in their car. It can be 50-50, or some other combination.
  3. Buy your host a cup of coffee. It doesn’t have to be Starbucks, or it doesn’t even have to be coffee anyway. Tea, snacks or anything else will do.
  4. Share your snacks. Chances are, during your stay, you will buy some chocolates, or chips, or candies. Offer some to your host.
  5. Buy them dinner. I make it a habit that, on my last day of staying at someone’s house, I will make an effort to buy them dinner. This goes a long way and leave a mark to your host. It doesn’t have to be expensive. A take away at nearby Chinese Restaurant will do.

Seriously, there are no awards for those who spend the least money when backpacking. Noone will remember you as someone who can travel with so little money. Not in a good way, at least. So, why not showing some courtesy, and make yourself remembered, in a good way?

In Memory of AirAsia QZ8501: Should We All Still Flying?

The crash of AirAsia flight QZ8501 has put a dent on the new year celebration. I’m glad that they have found the debris and start identifying the victim, but at the same time, saddened by the fact that many life have lost.

The plane that crash © leonardo kosasih

In the wake of the crash, many friends told me that the accident has made them scared to fly. Others asked me, whether it is still safe to fly in with AirAsia. These two question always bog me each time there are airplane accident. So, here is my thought.

I consider myself as avid traveller. I usually go on holiday 3-4 times a year, plus sometimes 1-2 business travel. For most of the time, I took the Low Cost Carrier, including AirAsia. In fact, one day before Adam Air’s accident in Mamuju, Sulawesi, I just took Adam Air’s flight from Bali to Jakarta.

Am I scared with these accident. Yes, I am. But the thought of not travelling by air make me even scared. It practically stops you from travelling, unless you want to spend weeks travelling by car or ships. It will make life dull, and for me, it is the same as taking some part of my life.

This is what I believe: each of us has a finite time in this world, and it has been set in stone by higher force above us. When our time come, no matter where you are, or what you are doing, flying in business class of safest airlines, in economy class of Low Cost Carrier, or sleeping on our comfy bed in our bedroom, we are dead.

If you still remember the crash of Mandala Airlines in Medan, North Sumatra, a couple of years back, the place crash on housing area. Imagine an airplane crash through your roof on your bed, early in the morning, while you are sleeping. Both those who was in the plane and sleeping on their bed is dead.

Or, the recent landslide in Banjarnegara, Central Java. There are not even an airport nearby. Yet, a landslide crush through your roof into their bedroom. It crush while they were sleeping in their bedroom, and kill them.

I can go on and on, such as Asian Tsunami in 2004. The point is that, there are really 100% safe place in this world. With this in mind, I think I’m going to still travelling by air. I can only prepare myself and loved one before I travel, should I die during the trip. In fact, I would recommend the same anyway even if you are only doing your normal commute. Who knows when your time come?

And to the second question: Should we fly with AirAsia in the future? Well, if you prefer another airlines, then go for it. But keep in mind that all airplane in the world is still designed by human, made by human, and flown by human pilot. Human made mistake, sometimes minor, and rarely fatal. So, no matter which airlines you pick, there are still risk involved.

So far AirAsia have a good track record. This is their first airplane lost since their existence. AirAsia’s airplane is quite new, and it’s schedule is pretty much on time. And their promotion price are hard to beat. So, yes, I’m still going to fly AirAsia. This accident is probably a human error, or act of God. The first one can happen with any human pilot flying for any airlines, and the second one is even harder to avoid.

Bottom line is, life or death are for most of the time beyond our control. Lets be prepared to face death, and while you still alive, lets make it more livable by traveling and see the world

Journey Onward

The only reason that there are less activity in this blog is that we are just taking 1 year hiatus from traveling. We just had a baby, and it is the best thing that happens in the last 12 months. So good that the travel bug also quite content until few months ago, when it finally can’t restraint itself. So, for the first traveling with baby experience, we booked a 7 days trip to Bali.

We are avid travelers. At least, we believe we are. We have been traveling with only 2 backpack without any hotel reservation. We book a hostel when we feel to stay, and book a coach to the next town when we don’t feel like staying. On another occasion, we took our parents to China, where none of us speak the language. But when it came to traveling with baby, we are junior, as junior as our 10 months old son.

The planning to travel with baby started few months back, but the fun really started 2 weeks before we fly out. Grace is, as usual, can’t make up her mind on which hotel we are going to stay. Not because concern about cleanliness and safety for the baby. Hotel in Bali is normally quite clean an convenient to our standard. It is due to a lot of selection, and the fact that she has not been traveling for more than 1 year make her want to stay at all of those fancy hotel. Two or three hotel at one night, if possible. The hotel was only settled 2 days before the travel date.

Another thing that need extra plan when traveling with baby is food. Pre-cooking baby food for 1 week is quite impossible from logistic and practicality point of view. Grace put up a plan to prepare some gravy and condiments that can be frozen and easily packed. Along the trip, we will buy fresh material that can be easily steamed or boiled. For that purpose, electrical boiler made it to our packing list.

The night before we depart, we started packing our stuff. I never thought that a baby that small will take so much space in our luggage. How big a 10 months old’s t-shirt can be? Then you add the electrical boiler, swimming pant, soap, shampoo, towel, and other nitty-gritty, and suddenly we walk out of the door with 2 luggage, 1 shared between me and Grace, and the other one exclusive for the baby.

The time spent waiting at the airport is uneventful. It was no more different like an evening in a shopping mall, and our 10 months old baby indeed enjoy the new scene. On one occasion, he was busy pushing the luggage around , inviting smile from fellow passenger. And in few more minutes, we are going to land in Bali. When the time come for boarding, I kind of expecting to be able to board first with the baby, but I think with low cost carrier, there are no such free convenience.

We are fortunate that the baby was not fussy during the take off before finally went to sleep. And to her credit, Grace really did a great job in planning our first trip with our baby, except for the frozen curry part.

Bali, on board QZ7522
October 2, 2012