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Indonesia, Surabaya - East-Java - Dinner with two ladies

Chili crab, cheerful conversation, and civet cat coffee

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Even when they are adults already, as a parent you always want to know that your kids are doing well. I enjoyed seeing how the students in the student house where my daughter was staying went along with each other, and meeting the people at the student office at the university.


Then my daughter and her local friend invited me out for dinner in a restaurant at a pond which seemed to be called Swan Lake (well the Indonesian name for it of course). They came to pick me up by car and we had a very nice dinner (fantastic chilli crab) outside.


After dinner we went to a street that seemed to be somewhat of the nightlife spot called Citraland. We sat down outside a place is called "de Kasteel" which is the Dutch word for "castle". It imitates a medieval European castle or royal palace, with bars, dining areas, all decorated in medieval royal style. Outside are even a couple of gypsy caravans that groups can rent for their private parties. Most of the people there were the more affluent young trendy people.


The reason why we went there was coffee luwak. This is a pretty unique coffee that not everybody may like to drink, after hearing how it is produced. It is made from coffee beans that are eaten by civet cats first. The cats' digestive system does not digest the coffee beans but instead, inside the cat a fermentation process starts, before the beans leave the cat "in the natural way".

The beans are then collected and used for coffee luwak, which is brewed strongly to a point that it is slightly thicker than normal coffee. Apart from the coffee aroma itself, there is a slight sour note that gives the coffee a unique character. This production process is very expensive and good coffee luwak therefore is the most expensive coffee you can buy.

After a long day, when back in my hotel and after taking a bath, I almost fell asleep instantly.

Posted by westwind57 17:19 Archived in Indonesia Tagged indonesia singapore java airport daughter changi surabaya kopi_luwak de_kasteel clark_quai Comments (0)

Indonesia - Surabaya, East-Java - A visit to my daughter

A wonderful time with my little lady and an intriguing history about the hotel

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After landing at Juanda airport of Surabaya, I was of course happy to see my daughter and her best friend there who came to pick me up, and they drove me to the hotel that I booked. My daughter was staying at a "kos", a student home close to the university, where I would visit later.

I was really hot, and although I usually don’t like air conditioning that much, it was very welcome now at the place where we stopped for a strong cup of coffee, which was equally welcome. I will be the first to admit that the late night out with my ex-colleague in Singapore may, just may also have had a little bit to do with that.

The roads were unbelievably crowded, especially with mopeds, becaks and motor bikes. It looked like a miracle that everything still moved. And this was not even rush hour yet!


Hotel Majapahit, where I stayed, turned out to be in the very center of Surabaya, close to Tunjungan Plaza shopping mall. Although the style is Dutch colonial, the first feel when entering it was very much like the Raffles in Singapore. Everything breathed the old times, like many Dutch people know it from stories and movies.


The hotel was built in 1910 as the Oranje Hotel by architect Lucas Martin Sarkies, whose Armenian family used to own the Raffles, and the Strand in Rangoon, and the Eastern and Oriental in Penang. So, this was why it reminded me so much of the Raffles.
The history of the hotel may be just around 100 years, but fascinating. Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard stayed here in the 1930's. It was occupied by the Japanese in World War II (who renamed it into Hotel Yamoto). But what happened here right after the war makes me feel humble as a Dutch.

After the Second World War the call for independence in Indonesia got stronger and stronger. At the time, this hotel that was used by the Dutch colonial power. It was a provocation when the Dutch flag was raised at the building. The Dutch wanted to make a statement against Indonesia’s proclamation of independence. The angry local people gathered in front of the hotel, and they tore the blue ribbon from the Dutch flag, so that the red and white of the Indonesian flag remained.

A turbulent time followed with riots, and the unrest lasted until November 10, 1945 when the local people stormed the hotel and took it over. That day is remembered by the Indonesians as Hero's Day. The Oranje Hotel was then renamed as Hotel Merdeka (Liberty Hotel).
Later it was taken over again by the same Armenian family that built it, and was called Hotel L.M.S. (the initials of the founder). When Mandarin Oriental took over the hotel, it got its present name The Majapahit Hotel, after an ancient kingdom at Java. It is now owned and managed by independent management.


I learned this from one of the old waiters while I stayed there. Knowing the hotel’s turbulent history, it is quite special that all people in the hotel, as well as generally in Surabaya and in Indonesia, treat us as Dutch visitors so friendly and welcoming. I did not feel a trace of resentment during my entire stay. Not even from the elderly people. Many must have very bad memories from the colonial times, but some of them even wanted to speak Dutch with me. Even today, when remembering the people I met on this trip, I am still thankful for their warm welcome.
After checking in I was offered a pineapple cocktail as a welcome drink by the hotel. Because my daughter and her friend were still there we all got one. I needed a shower and fresh up a little bit, before going out with them later that day.

Posted by westwind57 17:12 Archived in Indonesia Tagged indonesia singapore java airport daughter changi surabaya clark_quai Comments (0)

Singapore - a nice evening spending my stopover to Indonesia

One night stopover in Singapore, meeting up with my ex-colleague

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While on a planned trip to Hong Kong, I decided to take a few days to visit my daughter, who was studying for half a year in Surabaya, Indonesia. It’s always a sport to find competitive rates and still book Comfort Economy for the long stretches, but it worked out fine. My itinerary ended up like this: Amsterdam – Hong Kong - Singapore - Surabaya – Hong Kong and back to Amsterdam.

The stop in Singapore gave me the chance to meet up with an ex-colleague as well. Singapore is pleasant for just a few days. Very safe, very clean, and very organized, although it might get a little boring if staying there too long. On the other hand, to live there as an expat like my former colleague, does not seem so bad. None of the expats that I know who live in Singapore, would complain about living there.


Arriving at Changi airport, year after year chosen as the World's best airport, I took the free shuttle to the hotel in Changi Village that I had booked for this one night, Changi Village Hotel. Reasonably priced, a comfy room and bed, a nice bathroom, great breakfast and not too far from the airport.


After a shower I took a taxi to the Central Business District where I met my ex-colleague at his office. We decided to go out for beers and dinner at one of the places at Clark Quay, and had a good time talking about the old days, common friends, gossips and his new life in Singapore as an expat.
Time went fast, sitting outside, eating and drinking with such a nice temperature and a soft breeze. By the time we left there was no public transportation anymore, so we must have been sitting there for more than six hours…

Posted by westwind57 07:09 Archived in Singapore Tagged indonesia singapore java airport daughter changi surabaya clark_quai Comments (0)

China - Juizhaigou - Flight to a very, very elevated airport

Breathtaking views, and thin air after landing

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Attention: In August 2017 the magnificent Jiuzhaigou N.P. sustained heavy damage to the natural attractions, and has been closed. The park's official website does NOT mention anything about this. There is talk that it will be open in March or May 2018 again for tour groups only, and with a maximum of only 2,000 people per day. If I find updated info I will mention it in my forum topic ( link ).

I never heard of Jiuzhaigou until shortly before this trip. But it is one of the most scenic areas in China, in the very north of Sichuan province. By road it is about 450 kilometers north of Chengdu in a sparsely populated area, where originally the Awa people (sometimes written as Aba) are living, who are very closely related to Tibetans. Actually, it is not very far from the eastern border of Tibet.

It is possible to travel from Chengdu to Jiuzhaigou by bus or car, but it will take 8 to 12 hours. There are a few different routes. Some of the roads may be in repair, because of landslides. caused by heavy weather and sometimes by earthquakes. It makes a lot of sense to inquire about the road conditions before deciding which route to take.

The more expensive alternative is flying to Jiuzhai Huanglong airport, the third highest airport in China at an elevation of almost 3,500 meters. Many flights go there from Chengdu (and some from other cities) on a daily basis, but due to its position, the risk of flights not going on time or being cancelled is quite high. Also, the flights are not cheap, unlike many other flights in this part of the world. Due to limited time we decided to fly. We were lucky with a delay of 55 minutes only.

The airport is close to the village of Songpan, and is served by China Southern, Air China, Sichuan Airlines and other regional and local companies. It has been built and expanded to serve both the scenic areas of Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong. The flight from Chengdu takes about one hour. Unless the sky is completely clouded, the view from the plane on approaching Juizhai Huanglong airport is totally spectacular. I can use many words to describe it, but let the attached pictures speak for themselves.

Flight to Juizhai Huanglong airport

Flight to Juizhai Huanglong airport

Flight to Juizhai Huanglong airport

Flight to Juizhai Huanglong airport

From the airport, many buses and minibus companies are available for transport to Juizhaigou national park (about two hours driving) and to Huanglong National Scenic area (about one hour). This kind of transportation is cheap, we paid RMB 45 per person (about Euro 4.50), but beware: the minibuses only will leave until they have passengers filling up the last seat. So it may happen that you have to wait for a while before the minibus leaves. There are dispatchers who try to recruit passengers and make sure the buses get filled up.
The road to Jiuzhaigou National park and the villages around it, is very well maintained and runs through a beautiful area. From the airport on the top of a rim of mountains, it goes down into the valleys, where you will see yaks, Tibetan horses, people in traditional Tibetan dress, remote villages and a spectacular mountain and forest scenery.

Song Pan - hotel complex built as an ancient village

Song Pan - hotel complex built as an ancient village

Juizhaiguo - yaks along the road

Juizhaiguo - yaks along the road

On the way to Zhangzhazhen - Tibetan horsemen

On the way to Zhangzhazhen - Tibetan horsemen

Juizhaiguo, arriving at Zhangzhazhen village

Juizhaiguo, arriving at Zhangzhazhen village

After 2 hours we arrived at our hotel, Qian He International Hotel, almost next to the Sheraton Resort, and about 1.5 kilometer from the entrance of Jiuzhaigou national park, another UN World Heritage, and rightfully so.

Juizhaiguo - the river flowing through Zhangzhazhen

Juizhaiguo - the river flowing through Zhangzhazhen

The village is lively, and clean. Even though many young people from other parts of China work here, the local people seem to be in charge, and they are all proud of their scenic area. Things are well maintained generally, there are shops catering to locals, tourists and even some bar areas along the river. Traffic in the village is busy with many buses, taxis and private car offering taxi services as well. Outside of the village, roads are quiet and almost always very scenic.

Juizhaiguo - dinner in Qian He international hotel

Juizhaiguo - dinner in Qian He international hotel

That evening we had dinner in the hotel, about which I will write a review, and ventured to buy tickets for visiting the National Park the next day.
However, they don't sell tickets ahead, so you will have to get there in the morning (open from 7 a.m.) to get tickets. Be prepared to deal with crowds when buying the tickets. Especially around 7 a.m. it may be a total mayhem. There seems to be a way to order them online and pick them up at the second floor of the ticket office on your visiting day. I could not find confirmation of this on the internet, but if you can, then this seems to be a better idea than struggling yourself in the chaos to buy tickets. After dinner we called it a day and went to sleep early, waiting for our visit to the national park, the next morning.

Posted by westwind57 11:10 Archived in China Tagged mountains snow road_trip flight airport river china sichuan songpan altitude tibetan jiuzhaigou tibetans awa aba jiuzhai_huanglong Comments (0)

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