Move people quickly and you got a fast moving economy

June 15, 2010 at 07:25 | Posted in Singapore, Travel | Leave a comment
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“Move people quickly and you got a fast-moving economy”

I believe that for city development, mass transport should always be made one of the highest priority.

A city which constantly has roads constantly clogged with cars isn’t going to progress as fast as one that moves masses efficiently. Just imagine the man hours lost due to traffic jams, or the pollution as a result of idle engines.

Food for thought…


Jakarta: The Good, The Bad, and The Funny

June 12, 2010 at 16:36 | Posted in Singapore, Travel, Work | Leave a comment

Dear friends, I’ve completed my tasks in Jakarta and will be in Singapore for a while…
Next will be a steering meeting on 24 June, where all stakeholders will be present to firm up on the software requirements… then will be my in-camp training (5 – 10 July), then I will continue with the internship from 12 July onwards…

Just going to write some reflections on Jakarta city… I must say Jakarta is a hard city to love; full of idiosyncrasies that many city dwellers (locals & foreigners) learn to live by… so I’ll call it: The Good, The Bad, and The Funny

The Good:
1) People are really friendly here; from my colleagues to the hotel staff, the food vendors, restaurant waiters, shop keepers, everyone is really friendly…
Case 1: My Colleagues
Even though I know nothing about the textile business at the start of the internship, still they patiently explain it to me, and also entertain my constant check back with them. My very very limited Bahasa Melayu is no match to the fast talking Indonesians, but still, they try their best to communicate with me… which really helps me a great deal… so a big TERIMA KASIH to all of them.
Case 2: Hotel Staff
For 3 weeks, I’ve been eating the hotel breakfast with no breakfast voucher; I’m supposed to collect my breakfast voucher from the reception every morning before breakfast. The restaurant staff have been too polite to offend me, and they allow me to eat without breakfast voucher. I have once checked with the reception, they told me that I can just go to the restaurant for breakfast without the breakfast voucher. During the last weekend, I finally checked with the restaurant, “What must I do to get the breakfast voucher?”… and I was told politely what I’m supposed to do … case of being too polite?
Case 3: The Company Driver
I was supposed to be pick up from the hotel at 4pm to the airport. Once I got everything ready, I waited at the lobby at about 3:50pm. The company car arrives at about 4:03pm.
The moment I saw him, I went out… he thought he was late and kept apologising… which I thought really wasn’t necessary
Then we were stuck in the heavy Jakarta traffic, and the engine overheated slightly, but the car was still okay, just that the aircon wasn’t cold…he went on apologising again, saying he had check the radiator and engine oil every morning and the aircon was still fine in the morning… even though I re-assure him that I’m fine with the temperature, it’s 28-29 degree Celsius during the afternoon, which is much cooler than Singapore…when the traffic smoothen, and the car cruised for a while, the aircon became okay again, which reassured him that everything was fine.

Maybe I’m someone with no complaints, or is easily contented, so I really enjoy the warm hospitality of the people here, at the same time, overwhelmed by it. If it’s my fault that I have to take the breakfast vouchers, just tell me straight in the face … if you have done everything you could for car maintenance, then it’s not your fault, and there’s no need to apologise … it’s in the culture maybe?

2) Safety; every building, hotels, offices are guarded by security guards. Even though most simply do a simple check on your bags or cars, it acts as a good enough deterrent to thugs, thieves, terrorists…

3) Low cost of living; affordable eating places are everywhere, not very hard to find.

The Bad:
1) The air is real bad… from the burning of rubbish and the traffic (which brings on to the second point)… but I have learned to get used to it

2) The traffic is in a constant state of jam, couldn’t blame as the public transport system isn’t as developed as Singapore
The main roads are multi-laned, think 6 lanes in each direction… making it a total of 12 lanes… City Planning 101: expanding lanes is never going to solve the city problem of traffic congestion, the focus should be on reducing car population & developing public transport.

3) Pavement for people to walk on is a luxury to come by… there is ZERO pedestrian crossing, which makes jaywalking necessary, a skill which you got to master if you do not want to depend on taxis for short distances.

4) Food: everything is goreng goreng goreng (meaning fried) … it’s probably in their food culture, not exactly healthy I think

The Funny:
1) My boss of German nationality requires a visa which he have to apply on entry… he got to queue to make the payment, and join another queue to get the stamp on his passport… why not just do it altogether?

2) The airport is still practicing airport tax payment on departure, while most airports would charge the airport tax to the air tickets… imagine someone having spent all his Rupiah having to pay 150,000 Rupiah for airport tax… thanks to my colleagues for the reminder which saves me from this embarrassing situation, the airports official website still states 100,000 Rupiah… I found a Jakarta Post article dated a few years ago of the adjustment in airport tax to 150,000 Rupiah

3) Everywhere is English, but no one really speaks it. Everywhere you go, shops are playing English songs, promotions written in English, but when you try to speak in English to the shops or restaurants, no one speaks English. Same for a fitness magazine I read, the titles and sub-titles are in English, but the contents is in Bahasa Indonesia… something which I found really funny

Overall, I enjoyed my stay here at Jakarta: friendly colleagues and comfortable hotel…  what more can I ask for?
Jakarta is not exactly a place for tourist, but if you learn to appreciate the idiosyncrasies of this funky metropolis, you will still be able to have a good time 🙂

a great weekend =)

June 8, 2010 at 01:30 | Posted in Indonesia, Training Log, Travel, Work | Leave a comment
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A great weekend it has been.

Great workout on Saturday with my colleague Sumi, a steady long run (~40 minutes @ slower-than-10k pace) on Sunday…finally found out where everyone got their oversized cycling jerseys and tights, from the streets on Sunday morning. Funny that the sizes available are only from ‘L’ onwards, wonder how much air resistance that will be.

I don’t know how to best describe the roads on Sunday morning, hopefully the pictures could explain it all:

Visited Kota Tua in the afternoon, went into Fatahillah Museum (read another review here: to get an understanding of the old town. I would recommend just going in to have a look even if you are not a history buff, it’s probably the quickest way to understand the history of the area. Thanks to my colleague’s friend Melly, who became my tour guide of the day.

Wanted to explore the old town a little further, but it was too crowded… so it was lunch @ Café Batavia.

Rated online as “must-visit”, price range was indeed a little steep on local standards, but it’s a “once in a lifetime” experience, so why not…

Salmon sandwich with Avocado

Food was decent, not exactly fantastic, but the atmosphere is what defines the restaurant… a good place to visit if you have the chance.

Photos are not exactly allowed to be taken, so check out the funky toilet:

There’s live music as well, heard this singer speaking fluent English, Mandarin, Japanese… no idea how many more languages he knows

Melly being the true-blue foodie then brought me to Seneyan City for more food, at the same time, immerse in the mall culture of Jakartans.

A happy and fruitful weekend!!!


Having completed my tasks in Jakarta, I can’t really do anything productive related to the internship.
I have sent my findings to the development team in Singapore (bypassing my Singapore boss totally), waiting for them to get back to me on what other information they require for development.

Treated my colleagues to a lunch of hoka bento, everyone was happy, so am I…

Dinner was pasta, pancakes, and waffles with Sumi & Melly… stuffed full after that.

Looking forward to home-sweet-home Singapore

Final weekend at Jakarta with a companion…

June 5, 2010 at 11:33 | Posted in Indonesia, Training Log, Travel | Leave a comment

Thanks to my colleague who have kindly offered to bring me around, my final weekend here in Jakarta is more interesting.

Had my first ever yoga lesson and it’s right here at a Jakarta gym.
Then a “six-pack” lesson which brings me memories of my army sergeant telling me that only in Army, you get the training what other people pay for at California Fitness & Fitness First for FREE… and after today, i think it’s true.

Tomorrow will be a trip to Kota, and a meal at Cafe Batavia, then a swim somewhere near my hotel.

Terima kasih Sumi! 


Active Sunday

May 30, 2010 at 04:23 | Posted in Indonesia, Travel | Leave a comment
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So my boss was right…the Jakarta roads were indeed closed on Sundays for people to run, skate, and cycle. You see people with all sorts of bikes: mountain bikes, foldable bikes, gentleman bikes, road bikes, time-trial bikes, and even one guy wearing a clown hat on top of a very tall bike… Then there are the skaters, most impressed by the train of speed skaters… And there were the runners, the national running attire seems to be a windbreaker + trackpants, some very conservative and obviously hot attire in this sunny Islamic country… there’s a bunch of boys probably school runners wearing the more familiar singlet and running shorts… for me, I guess my cotton t-shirt and soccer shorts should do the trick… Started the run and went into my 10-k pace, but obviously I’m not as fit as before… about 15 minutes into the run and i got to stop, and 1 felt giddy for not having eaten anything in the morning, walked back to hotel…same old breakfast Photos of the amazing sight next week, when i saw that the roads were closed this morning to motor vehicles, I didn’t wanted to waste time to head back to my room to retrieve the camera… i immediately started my run

Doing what a tourist would do @ Jakarta

May 29, 2010 at 13:45 | Posted in Indonesia, Travel | 1 Comment
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It’s a long weekend, and so I thought exploring funky Jakarta would be a good idea, but with no better idea on what to do, I do what a tourist would usually do: visiting tourist attractions on Vesak Day.

Immediately after a hearty (but not healthy) hotel breakfast, I took a Blue Bird taxi down to Ragunan Zoo, about 45,000 IDR from Jakarta city centre.
Possibly the only reason I want to visit the zoo is due to fact that I really want to check out my primate cousins at Schmutzer Primate Center. Think the zoo is really smart by charging separately for zoo entrance fee (4,000 IDR) and the primate center entrance fee (5,000 IDR); they had to, as they are targeting 2 separate groups of people.
As you enter the zoo, you will be greeted by the vastness of the space, and the freshness of the air, a stark contrast to Jakarta streets… and it’s of no wonder why families would go there for a picnic, cycling and some even jogging.

The primate center however, have stricter rules about food, water, backpacks etc., supposedly you are expected to come closer to the primates, and for your safety, and to prevent you from feeding the primates, you have to deposit your items at their counter.

Feedback on the visit, not really enjoyable or educational as I expected, unless you enjoy seeing animals in captivity…

The one thing that I’m happy about the visit is that I got to see 2 life-size Silverbacks upclose, well not really close.

And not forgetting the Orangutans too!  Funny thing that happened is that neither the taxi driver nor the hotel security guard know what I mean when i say Ragunan Zoo, but when I say “Ragunan… Orangutan…”, he knows what I meant.

Other photos from Ragunan:

in conclusion for Ragunan zoo: confusing to navigate, animals not exactly in their “natural” habitat enclosure, a place you would go to for a picnic and escape from Jakarta city.

But if you don’t have the time to travel that far south from the city centre, want a good escape and still want to do the tourist-y stuff, you can consider visiting the National Monument, also known as MONAS, basically President Sukarno got inspired by the Eiffel tower of Paris and wanted something similar, and there you have it, MONAS!

The entrance to the monument itself is a bit of walk, but it was a big space and people are seen jogging (even in the hot afternoon sun), picnic in grass patches (it’s a park around MONAS), cycling, and kite flying. Entrance fee to the monument compound is 2500 IDR. It was a mistake that I went there in the afternoon as the queue to the elevator that brings you to the top was quite long, not going to waste time on the queue. I found a stairs up but it only brings you up  to a base level opening where more people are flying kites; you can’t climb the stairs up to the top, only the elevator can, thought that i could challenge myself to some Vertical Marathon 😦

There’s a museum at the basement showing Indonesia’s struggle for independence from their Dutch colonial masters… WARNING: nationalist propaganda
And the whole complex is playing some nationalist anthem…

MONAS: a place to go if  you don’t mind listening to nationalist propaganda, go early (really early) if you want to go to the top to see the Jakarta city scape. The reason why I go there is partly because I want the taxi driver to know a prominent landmark to represents Jakarta city centre, at least I’m somewhere near my hotel.

Took a funky Bajaj to Plaza Indonesia (20,000 IDR) for some retail therapy; from Nationalism to Capitalism. Played “follow-the-locals” for crossing the road to Grand Indonesia shopping town; for the zebra crossing, you can depend the security guards with their whistle to help you out.

Both shopping centres are the Takashimaya & ION Orchard of Jakarta, in fact, it’s much much bigger… and it’s definitely some upscale shopping experience for me, I can’t really compare the prices as I usually don’t go for such upscale shopping in Singapore… but I do see shops repeating themselves, so if you have visited Plaza Indonesia, you can skip Grand Indonesia if you do not have the time… but walking around is definitely some good exercise, not sure of the distance I have walked though.

Some funny things I saw in Grand Indonesia:

An antique car on exhibition

A man covered with “brown stuff”

two things side by side...wonder why?

Took a taxi back to my hotel (Prasada Mansion), the map behind my hotel’s card definitely helped the driver with navigation.

Conclusions from my Jakarta exploration:

  1. Picnic and Shopping are national past time for Jakarta city dwellers, the “Mall culture” is definitely in…
  2. There’s a getaway even in busy Jakarta
  3. No one really speaks English (the taxi drivers, the service staff in tourist attractions, shops), some basic Bahasa should help you get around

Two more weeks (and final weekend) in Jakarta, travel plans for next week:

  1. Learn to take Busway, an affordable and comfortable aircon bus that have its own dedicated bus lane in busy Jakarta streets
  2. Take Busway to Kota, visit the colonial flavoured Kota Tua streets, and possibly a meal at upclass Cafe Batavia
  3. Visit Blok M to immerse myself in Jakarta mall culture

Possibly a run tomorrow morning, heard from my boss that the roads are closed on Sunday morning for people to jog and cycle.

Good luck to all Sundown Marathon runners!

lazy sunday…

May 23, 2010 at 13:40 | Posted in Indonesia, Travel, Work | Leave a comment
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My colleague just knocked on my door and asked if I would like to visit a mall in West Jakarta (I’m in South Jakarta), hearing that it’s a mall, I immediately rejected… now kind of regret it as I could have a chance to see the night scene of Jakarta… shall go apologise to my colleague tomorrow

Ok… will be a YES-MAN from now on, saying YES to every opportunity to explore the country.

Finally did some decent running in the early evening… after a heavy rain, and today being a Sunday, there was little traffic outside, air was fresh, real good for some outdoors, even if it’s just around the perimeter of the hotel 😦

Funny thing was that when I came back from the run, I saw the hotel staff cleaning my room, even when it’s way past the room service time, and I put the DO NOT DISTURB sign when I was in the room the whole day, and my room don’t need cleaning; toilet was dry, only one towel was used… Good service? or just unnecessary?

Now getting some work done and looking at IAAF Diamond League on TV, admiring the perfect running form these track athletes have.

On tipping & being environmentally friendly

May 18, 2010 at 13:59 | Posted in Indonesia, Travel, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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There wasn’t a safe in my hotel room, upon clarification, I’m supposed to have it in the room. So the reception promised to deliver a safe in my room.

I kept my doors open, prepared a 5000 rupiah note on the table, prepared to give out as a tip, even though it is the hotel’s fault that I did not have a safe in my room.

3 person came; the manager (with a neck tie on), the reception, and the technician. The technician installed the safe (and left immediately), the reception just stood outside the door, and the manager showed me how to use the safe, asked me if I need room service, whether I need to change my towel etc.

Who should the 5000 rupiah goes to? In the end, it’s still there on the table.

I was trying to be environmentally friendly by not asking for daily room service, don’t really NEED that… seriously, do you change your bed sheets and towels daily at home? If not, why so when you travel?

Below are some tips on tipping, hope it comes in useful…

Tips on Tipping
Gratuity can be a tricky business: what’s just right in one country can be miserly–or extravagant–in another. For this handy guide, there’s no charge

It’s every traveler’s nightmare. the porter brings your bags to your room and helpfully explains how to access CNN. He shows you how to turn on the lights and adjust the air-con. Then he points to the phone and says: “If there’s anything else you need, just call.” All this time, you’ve been thinking one thing: “How much should I tip this guy?” Out of desperation you shove a few notes into his hand, hoping that you’ve neither offended him nor become the sole benefactor of his son’s college fund.

It’s difficult to divine what constitutes an appropriate tip in any country. In Japan, if you leave a couple of coins on the table, the waiter is liable to chase after you to return your forgotten change. In New York, on the other hand, if you leave less than 15%, your reservation might not hold up next time. Asia, with it’s multiplicity of cultures and customs, is a particularly difficult terrain. To make your next trip a little easier, here’s a guide to tipping across the region:

Everything goes in Thailand’s capital, and that rule applies to tipping as well. Some places expect it; others don’t. In general, the more Westernized the place is the more likely you’ll be expected to leave a gratuity.
Restaurants: Some top-end eateries will add a 10% service charge to the bill. If not, waiters will appreciate you tacking on the 10% yourself. However, if you’re eating at a down-scale restaurant a tip is not necessary.
Porters: If you’re staying at one of Bangkok’s many five-star establishments, expect to tip the porter 20 to 50 baht, depending on how many bags you have.
Taxis: Cabs are now metered in Bangkok, so there’s no haggling over your fare. Local custom is to round the fare up to the nearest five baht.

Gratuity is de rigueur in this money-mad metropolis at all but the lowest establishments. Even bathrooms in posh hotels have little dishes for loose change.
Restaurants: Most places automatically add a 10% service charge to the bill, but the surcharge often ends up in the pocket of the owner, not the staff kitty. If the service is good, add another 10% to the bill, up to HK$100 if you’re in an especially nice restaurant.
Porters: HK$10 should do it at all but the nicest hotels where a crisp HK$20 bill may be more acceptable.
Taxis: Round up to the nearest dollar, although many drivers will do this on their own when making change.

Tipping is not part of local culture, but international influences have turned some Westernized palms upward in search of a few extra rupiah.
Restaurants: A 10% service charge is added at most high-end eateries. At moderately priced restaurants, 5,000 rupiah should do it–if the service is superb, tack on an extra 1,000 or so.
Porters: Pay a few hundred rupiah for each bag.
Taxis: Most drivers will automatically round up to the next 500 rupiah. Others will claim they have no change and will bleed you for more. Don’t accept anything more than a 1,000-rupiah markup.

Like Indonesia, tipping in Malaysia is confined to the pricier Westernized joints, which often add a 10% service charge to your meal or hotel room.
Restaurants: If you’re at a hotel restaurant, expect a 10% service charge or add the equivalent yourself. But at local hawker stalls you’ll be bargaining for your laksa anyway, so there’s no need to add a gratuity.
Porters: At five-star hotels, one or two ringgit will suffice. At lower-end establishments, don’t feel compelled to tip.
Taxis: Many taxis are now metered, so you can just round up to the nearest ringgit. In unmetered taxis, expect a session of hard bargaining for the ride.

Tipping is common in Manila, and anything above 10% will gain you undying loyalty.
Restaurants: Even if a service charge is included, custom dictates adding another 5%-10% to the bill.
Porters: Service in top hotels is good and should be rewarded with 20 pesos per bag.
Taxis: Most cabs are metered, and rounding up to the next five pesos is a good rule of thumb.

Tipping is not part of Korean culture, although it has become a matter of course in international hotels where a 10% service charge is often added.
Restaurants: If you’re at a Korean barbecue joint, there’s no need to add anything extra. But a sleek Italian restaurant may require a 10% contribution.
Porters: If you’re at a top-end hotel, international standards apply, so expect to fork over 500-1,000 won per bag.
Taxis: Drivers don’t expect a tip, so unless you’re feeling remarkably generous, keep the change for yourself.

According to government mandate in the Lion City, tipping is a no-no. It’s basically outlawed at Changi Airport and officials encourage tourists not to add to the 10% service charge that many high-end hotels tack on to the bill.
Restaurants: Singaporeans tend not to leave tips, especially at the bustling outdoor eateries. Nicer restaurants do sometimes levy a 10% service charge, and there’s no need to supplement that.
Porters: Hotel staff are the one exception to the no-tipping rule. As a general guide, S$1 should be adequate for baggage-lugging service.
Taxis: Drivers don’t expect gratuity, but they won’t refuse if you want to round up the fare to the next Singaporean dollar.

Like Japan and China, Taiwan is not a tipping society–even though much of the currency seems to come in coin form.
Restaurants: Tipping is not expected. However, that rule is changing as American-style eateries introduce Western ways.
Porters: You can offer NT$50, but the hotel staff won’t be overly offended if you don’t tip.
Taxis: Gratuity is not expected, although rounding up the fare to the next NT$5 helps avoid unnecessary change.

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