Happy-Go-Lucky in Aarhus

Aarhus, the second largest city in Denmark, was the next destination of Princess Cruise excursion after Oslo. Aarhus is as compact as Copenhagen where you can reach anywhere on foot. Even so, you need to know that another implicit meaning of traveling by cruise ship is you can’t have it all. What do you expect to know everything about a place in less than 24 hours? You might need to choose between visiting a royal palace, a viking museum, or just skimming all landmarks without reaching particular places.

We only had 7 hours to explore the city. We didn’t lock specific “targets” as long as we managed to see Aarhus Cathedral and Den Gamle By.  Hey, did I say we didn’t lock our  “targets”? Whatever. The Aarhus Cathedral is just 5 minutes walking distance from the harbour. So yeah, there was no need to chase it at all.

the wooden door and fresco gate
fresco ceiling

The church looks plain at a glance with less sculptures and much more painted white walls than frescoes. Taking a better look at the frescoes, I said to myself, “Man, this cathedral must be really old.” The colours are not as bright and contrast as those in St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican.

the altar
war ship model made for Peter the Great

Aarhus Cathedral was built after year 1190 and finished in 1350, dedicated to St. Clements, the patron saint of sailors. It is one of the few preserved Romanesque churches in history and the longest church in Denmark with 93 meters length. The frescoes, created between 1470 and 1520, once covered most parts of the wall. Nonetheless, they are only a few remains nowadays. I can imagine how beautiful the interior supposed to be, and it still is despite the fading colours of the frescoes. I guess the sculptures are just complementary of the design, otherwise it looks too chaotic.

Besides, it also stores a model war ship, hanged on the ceiling and failed to ship to Peter the Great in Russia because of the shipwreck in Skagen. Local fishermen bought the model and donated to the church. Don’t forget to listen the beautiful sound of religious music from the largest organ pipe in the country inside the cathedral!

even a wooden sculpture knows how to use iPhone!

On the way to Den Gamle By, the famous old town of Aarhus, we walked through the main shopping street, ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum until an empty gloomy shop window and a tacky Vietnamese wedding gown shop. So where was it?

the bird statue marking our way back to the ship
ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum and “Your Rainbow Panorama” by Olafur Eliasson. It permits visitors to walk in circular motion to view Aarhus in different colours depending on the angle

“Just walk straight there, we’re on the right direction.” said my cousin, our co-pilot of the day. He tried to convince everyone after one of us popped up a question, “Are we there yet?” . “Don’t say that it’s under construction when we arrive!” We laughed out loud.

From the other side of the street, we saw some groups of people heading to the left side. Also the back row of old houses with workers hammering nails and drilling bricks. The whole area was surrounded by wall to seclude itself from the rest of the city. We believed that was our Den Gamle By and we hoped it wasn’t under construction! Surprisingly, it requires an entrance fee to go inside. To be honest, we haven’t  visited any old town with a fee. Moreover, the queue to the ticket counters was freaking long, implying that it was still open for public. Finally my parents, aunt and uncle didn’t feel like going in.

Den Gamle By is a man-made open air museum, founded in 1909, to exhibit the lifestyle of the old Danish settlement, from traditional houses coming from all cities in Denmark, museums, shops, streets and yards. No wonder why we need a ticket!

Since there was no ticket controller right in front the old town entrance, some other tourists, including some Chinese couples, managed to sneak in without being noticed. An inspiring act, haha! My cousin and I decided to do the same!

old bed
old house interior
Strike a pose before escaping!

We didn’t know how things work there and we could get caught anytime. I took pictures quickly and my cousin  the co-pilot struck a pose in front of the camera just before we escaped. We succeed fulfilling our curiosity without spending a dime in less than 5 minutes and didn’t get caught!

hip hip hurra!

Our 2 favourite Danish words: tilbud and hip hip hurra. Everytime we saw the word tilbud, items sold in stores are on sale. And Hip Hip Hurra is what? The Dutch calls it Hip Hip Hoera, with exactly the same pronunciation as the Danish one, the English calls it Hooray (do I still need to translate this?). Eventually my family and my cousin’s bought same items: discounted placemats, as the only souvenir we think is useful, cheap and light to bring.

modified rooftop

While heading back to the harbour, we passed by an old house with an additional glass attic on its modified rooftop. I could see chairs and a table inside from the distance, assuming that it’s an extended meeting room. I found it a breaking through design, sort of like IM Pei‘s glass pyramid in the middle of the iconic Louvre courtyard. Nonetheless, my mom called it destruction of an antique design.

Aarhus embraces a slow pace of life and happy-go-lucky kind of atmosphere, one of the perfect places to visit where you don’t need to think too much about almost everything without being isolated from a modern city life. Sometimes, chasing tourist attractions doesn’t mean much compared to spending quality time with your family. Just go with the flow and it will be very relaxing. Aren’t they the reasons why you need a holiday(s)?

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EUROMAP

EUROMAP illustrates my trip to European cities from August to September 2012 through a custom map I created with Google Map. I only include this chapter in the end of the post related to the Eurotrip I did in that month. Please feel free to enlarge and click the blue arrows to view further comments about places I visited. Have fun with it, that’s what it’s made for!

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Days at Baltic Sea

 

Baltic Sea Cruise routes in chronological order: Copenhagen – Oslo – Aarhus – Tallinn – St. Petersburg – Helsinki – Stockholm – Copenhagen

Twelve of thirty days of my recent Eurotrip was at sea. Seven months after Costa Concordia disaster, my family and I took a Baltic Sea excursion from Princess Cruise (where both brands are coincidentally under the same parent company, Carnival Corporation), starting from Copenhagen (as marked by the following black dot).

For many, a cruise ship is a luxury vehicle sailing to reach any desired destination. But for many others, it is actually the destination – far more important than where it docks. So let’s skip the disaster part, and let me tell you the meaning of Escape Completely, as mentioned on Princess Cruise’s tagline.

NEW IN TOWN

Emerald Princess

Once being on board, you’re registered in the town hall of Emerald Princess, the name of the ship taking you to Baltic Sea. Your cruise card is the second most important thing you need to carry at all times after your passport to enter your stateroom, make purchases and re-board the ship.

The flag on the right side signifies the country you visit
outdoor sports

Bring the map to find where you can find the ship’s luxurious facilities, from fitness, library, casino, discotheque to photo studio, so you don’t need to sacrifice your needs, hobbies and habits completely. Only machine rooms, crew’s cabins and the least wanted places to go – jail and mortuary – are not on your map. Without it, some passengers cannot find their own stateroom on the first and second day! Getting to know other passengers travelling with you could make you feel like home, too.

Skywalker Nightclub

NEVER ENDING FOOD SUPPLY

fine dining experience

Variety of food is two thumbs up! So yeah, you’ll always wonder what they have for buffet, tea time and fine dining. Later on, you’ll get some clue about food availability.

I got it starting from the 4th day on. My favourite fennel salad with shrimps is available 24 hours only at International Café on deck 5. I could get double chocolate chip cookies at Horizon Court and Café Caribe on deck 15 during lunch and dinner, except breakfast. Pizza and ice cream parlour opens on deck 15 from 11 am to 11 pm. I could customize my orders at the five-star quality fine dining as long as it is on the menu. For instance, replacing shrimp cocktail with spaghetti Alfredo or skipping the fatty dessert to keep up a strict diet program.

Syamsi, an Indonesia crew, proudly poses for the farewell ice cream cake. It marks the end of the cruise on the way back to Copenhagen.

ENTERTAINMENT ON BOARD

“Life shows are like a box of chocolate. You never know what you gonna get.”

Princess Theater saved the best for last. I didn’t really fancy the first week shows, until I missed one of the best music performers on the last day! However, I managed to watch “International Crew Talent Show”, where the crews demonstrated their hidden talents, from traditional Balinese dance, belly dance, singing, drama until piano performances. To be honest, some crews sang as good as the professionals the company hired, even better!

For passengers who love singing, they can join Princess Pop Star competition. It’s like American Idol with more diverse nationalities. And my uncle made it to the grand final! Yeaayy! Or join Texas Hold’em Tournament for gamblers!

Princess Dancers

As a classical music lover, I found The Alegria String Quartet rocked The Piazza on deck 5. From Strauss, Mozart, Vivaldi until The Beatles, the 4 pretty ladies were violin and cello killers. On their peak performance, the Quartet’s leading lady asked a passenger’s participation to hold her violin’s bow. Then, she drew the strings across the bow the passenger held instead of drawing the bow across the strings. The audience was stunned and finally gave the longest applause in the end of the show.

Liam Steward, the singer and pianist entertaining at Crooners Bar every evening, could kill any song with that blew the audience away. The fact that he’s a hunk is an advantage!

Alegria String Quarter’s Peak Performance

ALL INCLUSIVE?

Knowing that you paid everything in advance, you might immediately believe that all kinds of facility, food and beverage are included in the price. My best advice is: do not hesitate to ask, especially with names or words that sound specific and rosy.

There are extra charges applied for alcoholic drinks, yoga, massage, particular activity like “creating your own matryoshka“, and specialised restaurants like Sabatini’s and Crown Grill have $25 cover charge. Internet connection costs $.79 per minute. Since it is only possible to use satellite to get the network at sea, the connection is slower than that at home and office. My cousin knows it best. He spent $11 for sending 2 short emails!

Holiday in a luxurious cruise ship is not a budget trip. It is meant for those who indulge, reward themselves with achievements in life: marriage, birthday, wedding anniversary, career promotion, successful business or just a family gathering. Certain retired couples with decent amount of retirement funds spend the rest of their life in the ship. Youngsters need to have more savings to pay the trip. FYI, the price for “non-free” food and drinks on board are fair, not too overwhelming. Nonetheless, there is no harm to think wisely before you spend.

INTANGIBLE LUXURY

Princess top deck

Departing, arriving or on the way to destined cities, the best place to witness breathtaking views are the outdoor section of deck 15 and 16. Oslo and Warnemünde are the prettiest cities seen from the top deck, as well as Stockholm while heading to and leaving the harbour (not when it docked). Moreover, clean breeze, sunshine and 20 degree temperature made the place heaven on earth that did not happen everyday.

feeding seagulls with ice cream cone (I know it’s not the best pic to capture the moment!)

Watching seagulls flying high so close to me, on the same level as I stood was another unforgettable experience. While a passenger was feeding seagulls with an ice cream cone, everybody laughed and took pictures of aggressive birds pecking the cone edges with hints of vanilla ice cream left inside.

stateroom corridor

$11 per day gratuity for the crews is part of the company’s house rules. However, making friends with them is what money can’t buy. It broadens your horizon about life behind all the luxurious service and facilities, from long working hours until their tradition, i.e. how Indonesian crews celebrate Indonesian independence day at sea. Since they come from various countries, who knows they have the same nationality as yours!

Besides, far far away from traffic jam and air pollution, picturesque sea view (especially for a city girl like me), friendship with other passengers are also priceless. For everything else, there is MasterCard Princess Cruise Card.

Give me more time to put my journey in words for all cities I visited. This I promise you in my next post.

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EUROMAP

EUROMAP illustrates my trip to European cities from August to September 2012 through a custom map I created with Google Map. I only include this chapter in the end of the post related to the Eurotrip I did in that month. Please feel free to enlarge and click the blue arrows to view further comments about places I visited. Have fun with it, it’s made to do so!

In a Nutshell: Careless or Clueless?

Generally speaking, my trip to Turkey was full of surprises, like a non-stop long roller coaster ride for the whole week. I expected it would be the one of the most relaxing holiday moments to escape daily routines. But somehow, it happened otherwise. I still believe I could reduce or avoid the surprises, couldn’t I? Well, behind all the incidents or surprises during the trip: was I careless or clueless?

she’s either a pet, an animal farm or a public transportation and hopefully not food!

ALANYA

1. Almost locked up abroad for entering without visa: careless

Was I bullied at the immigration office in Alanya Airport regarding the visa? I checked the Turkish Embassy website and damn, they were right! The regulation has changed, so it’s true that Indonesian passport holders need a visa to visit the country. No matter if you just went there 1, 2 years or even 6 months ago, and which passport have, always verify bureaucracy regulations before visiting a place outside your own country. Everybody knows, but sometimes underestimates this issue.

2. Leaking shower hose in the hotel bathroom: clueless

Who knows whether you get a room with dirty bed sheets, broken remote control or leaking shower hose? Just be critical, report immediately to the hotel officials. If the complaint is too unbearable, get a replacement room when available if you want. It’s your right to get a decent and comfortable room – you paid for it, didn’t you? I  visited the country 6 years ago, websites and online bookings were not as developed as today. Nowadays, it’s very easy (and advisable) to check testimonials from visitors who previously stayed in the place you’re going to stay before making a decision.

rock house window, cappadocia

CAPPADOCIA

1. Local excursion didn’t fulfill some of their promises: clueless (with hints of careless)

“The tour includes the famous underground city and rock churches.” Yep, that’s what they said. They took us to the underground city, but not the most visited one. They took us to the famous area of rock churches in Göreme, but actually they only stopped right in front of the entrance gate and the entrance fee was not included in the package.

Having a preliminary research about your future destination will be helpful, either online (internet cafe, mobile internet – your choice) or go to Tourist Info if you prefer talking to the officials. Well, perhaps asking tourist info officials in Alanya about Cappadocia is not the best choice. But at least you know something and you can take the national tourism board brochures showing destinations in other regions when available.Therefore, you can take notes or keep in mind some names of the most visited places.

But in my case, it was completely a sudden decision! Yet I should have gone to Tourist Info or internet cafe first. I didn’t have to decide right away. Or just let the rest be adventure and suck it all!

Regardless, each city or country has its own way of doing things. Before taking an excursion from a local tour company in a city you’re not familiar with, make sure you ask more details about the tour packages they offer. Elaborate more questions such as, “Which underground city?”,  “What’s the name of the castle?, “Is the entrance fee included?” and so on. It might sound you’re too critical or suspicious. However, some destinations could be once in a lifetime for you. Unless you have much time, choose only the most popular and recommended sites that suits you.

Too much information results in lack of adventure, but too little results in ineffective time management. Nonetheless, getting lost and meeting unpredictable things are part of the art of traveling. Otherwise, what’s the fun? Where’s the adventure? What will you tell your peers about your trip? “Nothing much and as planned”? Even sometimes you meet unexpected things from a 9 to 5 job, don’t you?

2. Leaving a luggage in the baggage after getting off the minibus: careless

Just check your things to ensure nothing left behind before leaving the minibus, as simple as that!

Just don’t think Indonesian if you come to a store called “Pelit”. I don’t know what it means in Turkish, but in Indonesian it means “stingy” – unappealing translation, huh?

Well, probably some of you have had the same experience before and to be honest, I didn’t present any new traveling advice. I’m just learning from my mistakes -my introspection-, share them to you all, and hopefully they will be useful for everyone. Have a great trip!

Careless and Clueless Journey – Cappadocia

Merely based on positive commentaries I’ve heard somewhere, I spontaneously decided to take a three-day-excursion to Cappadocia departing from Alanya. My traveling companion agreed. Finally, it was a deal: 40 euros, including return transportation from Alanya to Cappadocia, 2 nights in a 3 star hotel, English-speaking guide and entrances to the main tourist attractions. Before bargaining, the local tour was 50 euros. So we thought it was a good deal.

There were 14 people in the minibus, including the tour guide, that took us to Cappadocia, situated in central Anatolian region, about 7 to 8 hours from Alanya. We got 3 beds in the hotel room for the two of us and no leaking shower hose. Lovely! A good start for a great excursion?

LIKE NOWHERE ELSE ON EARTH

The wonder of nature in Cappadocia commenced with frequent eruptions of major volcanoes that were active until 2 million years ago, including Erciyes, Hasan and Melendiz to name a few. Volcano ash deposits, lava and basalt were the foundation of peculiar shape of rocks in the entire region. Subsequent weathering, climate change, rain, wind caused the erosion that formed the rocks into so-called “fairy chimneys”. Fairy chimneys are actually fine grained stratified ash that are relatively soft and easy to be carved.

“window” of the carved rock

The changing reign of power from different civilizations from time to time has contributed rich culture and history of Cappadocia, starting from the Assyrian, Hittite, Persian, Alexander the Great, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk to Ottoman Empire. The most significant historical background attracting millions of visitors every year is when the early Christians built monasteries, churches, chapels inside the rocks or carved fairy chimneys, residential areas in caves so-called underground cities to protect themselves from the Romans until Emperor Constantine liberated Christians in 313 AD.

the village
the rock house living room

Towns and villages in Cappadocia were like nowhere else on earth. Being inside one of the village rock houses was a unique experience for anyone living in modern houses. Long chairs covered with traditional fabrics accommodating about 20 people in the living room and a small souvenir stall outside the owners’ door depicted the awareness of foreigners’ presence in their house. I believe they keep it tidy everyday to welcome tourists, thus it has commercial purpose behind it. And so what? It’s a win-win situation. Many visitors are curious to see local people’s traditional houses and the locals are willing to spend more time and energy to receive them. It’s a fair game, isn’t it? Still, it’s still more original than a cave hotel room interior.

rock house bedroom
The local’s kitty cat lives there, too! She’s got used to with foreigners everyday at her place.

Witnessing the fairy chimneys in different shapes, sizes, heights and climbing the stairs to enter ancient people’s residences inside the chimneys were unforgettable.

Man, I feel like a kid!
The camel is one of the most photographed chimneys at Devrent Valley or Pink Valley, 10 minutes from Göreme

Paşa Bağlari, literally means Pasha’s vineyard, is one of the most visited small towns in Cappadocia. It is famous for its multi-headed chimneys that look like mushrooms. The small town got its name from someone named Pasha who owned a vineyard in the neighbourhood of the fairy chimneys. The vineyard still exists until today. I held the green ripe grapes hanging in one of the trees. I wish I could pick them, that reminds me of those at Alberth Heijn supermarket in Holland…slurp!!

One of the highest chimneys in Paşa Bağlari
vineyard and fairy chimneys
Yusuf Koç Church

Nobody knows the real name of the church above in Göreme town. Yusuf Koç is actually the name of the owner of a vineyard since it is situated at his place. Its architecture is dated from the 11th century.

a pottery store at Konak Canakcilik

UNDERGROUND CITY

I was so much less informed than I thought after checking my one and only souvenir from Cappadocia: a book about Cappadocia itself. Coming to Cappadocia was a spontaneous decision. We decided to go there only based on good commentaries I heard elsewhere without doing further research. I kept wondering why the underground city I saw was not as big as that in the book?

Yeralti Sehri Underground City

In fact, there are about 36 underground cities found in the region (I thought there’s only one!). This amount may increase if there are new discoveries in the future. The biggest one is Derinkuyu in Nevşehir province. Others are Mazi Köyü, Özkonak, and Kaymakli underground city. The local tour marketing department didn’t lie that they took us to the famous underground city, they just didn’t tell which one. After the trip, I realized that the excursion took us to Yeralti Sehri underground city instead of Derinkuyu. Regardless, visiting this place was an awakening experience for us in modern world. Subway station is not an advanced technology, after all!

In the beginning, underground cities were build to protect its inhabitants from wild animals and cold winter. Then, the Christians used them as hiding places from the Arab troops to spread their religion secretly. Considered as the ninth wonder of the world, underground cities were real cities. There were kitchens, bedrooms, storerooms, dining rooms, wine cellars, churches, missionary schools, conference rooms and graves. A big underground city has between 70 to 85 meters depth and 4 kilometers length. Yet, the one I visited wasn’t that big.

Just a lucky guess, I’m pretty sure there was some kind of fixed arrangement between the excursion company and the local people living around Yeralti Sehri. Moreover, I didn’t see any ticket booth at all. The entrance should be free of charge?

MAGNIFICENT CAVE CHURCHES

At first, the arrival to Göreme Open Air Museum was quite unpleasant. As soon as our minibus stopped in front of the magnificent World Heritage City since 1985, the tour guide mentioned that it was the last destination and the tour had actually finished without entering the site.

We were stunned by the announcement. The company promised to take us to the main tourist attractions and Göreme was a major site to visit. I felt the air of disappointment in each tour member. We felt cheated by the ad, but what’s the point of looking the huge complex from the outside? Finally, all of us decided to enter the open air museum on our own expenses. The tour guide didn’t join us, I believe the company wouldn’t reimburse the entrance fee to do so. He gave us allowance of 2 hours to visit the site. It wasn’t that long for a huge place, but better than no allowance at all.

Göreme means “you cannot see from here”as the Christians used and built churches inside the carved rocks as shelters from the Arab troops. In 726 AD during Iconoclastic period (deliberate destruction of religious icons, monuments and other symbols), the Byzantine Emperor Leon III forbid religious drawings, closed churches, monasteries and destroyed numerous icons until Empress Theodora ended the period in 843 AD. The church in Göreme were created from 10th until 13th century. The frescoes inside were from post-iconoclastic period with typical Byzantine style.

Façade of a rock church

The main churches in Göreme are St. Basil Church (Basil Kilise), Apple Church (Elmali Kilise), St. Barbara Chapel (Azize Barbara Kilisesi), Snake Church, Dark Church (Karanlik Kilise), St. Catherine Chapel, Sandal Church (Çarikli Kilise), and Buckle Church (Tokali Kilise).

formerly a dining table?
Apple Church

I noticed something particular about churches in Cappadocia: their names are not always based on a saint’s name like any Catholic and Orthodox churches. For instance, Apple Church got its name from one of the frescoes depicting the round shape in Jesus’ hand that resembles an apple. Dark Church got its name simply because it literally has lack of light inside. As a result, the frescoes don’t fade out easily. Moreover, before it was opened to public, it took 14 years to clean the pigeon droppings on the wall. Underneath the droppings, the frescoes were in a very good condition. The droppings played an important roll as well: to preserve the beauty of the 13th century church.

Dark Church
Dark Church
St. Barbara Chapel

St. Barbara Chapel reveals its own characteristic. Built in 11th century, the frescoes painted with red ochre depict mythological animals, geometrical patterns and various symbols besides the saints.

the path of Göreme Open Air Museum

The journey might not always be perfect, but meeting nice companions during the trip could comfort us. The Parisian couple we met were very friendly, Nicolas, a palaeolithicum specialist, and his girlfriend, a high school history teacher. There was something in common that connected us: we love history! Their extensive knowledge could make them excellent tour guides. If they knew more about the rock churches, I bet they could alternate the existing local guide! They gave me their business card, but unfortunately my wallet (where I kept the card) was stolen in Amsterdam!!

EPILOGUE 

The day after, the minibus took us back to our hotel in Alanya. About an hour later, I realized there was something left: the luggage in the baggage! I called the local excursion’s main office and finally they would return our luggage to our place. Thank God!!! There was an extra charge applied, but never mind. I guess we started getting used to with unexpected things in Turkey.

I started to realize what Turkey is all about, apart from the unexpected. Islamic atmosphere in Istanbul, coastal Greek atmosphere in Alanya, and the atmosphere in Cappadocia? Like nowhere else on earth. Perhaps I’ve jumped into the conclusion too soon. Nevertheless, I believe none of the places I’ve visited in Turkey is alike. In a nutshell, I never regret my sudden decision to visit Cappadocia. I’ve proved all the positive commentaries about the region!

What’s next? I’m thinking of visiting other unique cities and regions within Turkey. Any advice?

Things I Shouldn’t Do While Travelling

Greetings from Budapest! Until the day I write this article, I’m still on the third week of my Eurotrip.

image

I post this through WordPress mobile version since I don’t bring my laptop. I promise to deliver more holiday pics as soon as I finish my journey.

So far, I’ve learned something from the trip, especially things I shouldn’t
do during the trip. Not something new to be honest, only things I forget and ignore.

DON’T BRING SPARE MEMORY CARDS
For those who are on a long trip and love taking pictures, not bringing spare memory cards is a disasterous decision. Resizing, sorting and deleting unwanted pics every night is a waste of time and energy. Moreover, bare in mind that if you have an old digital camera having less than 10 megapixels, you only can use a 2GB memory card. Higher capacity memory cards won’t comply with the old system. That’s why 4GB card doesn’t work on my 6 year old Lumix camera with 6 megapixels. It’s time consuming to search for an electronic store in touristic areas and 2GB cards are getting rare in the market nowadays.

LEAVE THE TOILET BOWL OPEN AFTER USE
It’s not about Feng Shui. I advise you to close the toilet bowl lid in wherever and whatever hotel you stay to keep your belongings away from the toilet bowl. When I was in Copenhagen, I accidentally dropped a 15 ml body lotion into a toilet bowl. What happened next was unexpected. That small bottle was sucked in automatically into the flushing hole instead of remaining still on the base of the bowl! I didn’t have time to catch the flowing bottle at all. In fact, the hotel toilet bowl has an automated vacuum capability, even without pressing the ‘flush’ button. Luckily the lotion was a complimentary from the hotel. What if it happens to your diamond ring??

CARELESS WITH SMALL CHANGES
Holiday is meant for relaxation. However, sometimes you just don’t want to sweat small stuff, including small changes you get from the store. I lost €20 change in Warnemunde just because I didn’t recount my changes before leaving the store. I spent approximately €7 in the cafe, then I gave the cashier lady a €50 banknote. After getting back to the cruise ship, I suddenly realized that I only had €23 left in my wallet! I supposed to have another €20 with me.

I wasn’t sure what was going on. Most probably the lady gave me wrong amount of change. However, I mostly suspected that my other €20 was gone with the wind. She put 2 times €20 bank notes and some coins on top. I grabbed the coins first and took too long to find my coin wallet. The wind was pretty strong at that time, the cashier was close to the exit door (no doors, btw) and the notes were brand new and smooth.

I believe one of them fell down because of the wind but I didn’t realize it. Nex time, grab the whole change all at once and arrange it in the proper place later on!

DO NOT LEARN FROM THE PAST
My history as a clumsy traveller repeats: I lost my 72 hour pass in Budapest on the second day! Years ago, I lost my ID card, ATM card, debit card, a few bucks of cash, public transportation monthly pass etc. It’s been my unwanted daily dose for a long time. I suppose to be more careful and do not hold maps, brochures and a card altogether at the same time. I’m sure it fell down, again….

Well, that’s all for now. I promise to tell you more stories of my journey after returning to Jakarta. Cheers!

Careless and Clueless Journey – Alanya

Time flies… it’s been over 6 years ago since the last time I went to Alanya and Cappadocia, Turkey. My seven day trip to Turkey was probably the most roller coaster journey ever – distinctively memorable for the unexpected experiences, sometimes unpleasant, that took me to the next level of learning by traveling. Regardless, combination of breathtaking nature and fascinating history has made them top destinations you should not miss before you die. 

PAY THE FINE OR LOCKED UP ABROAD 

Arriving at Antalya Airport in the morning from Amsterdam, an immigration officer suddenly lead us to a smaller room that no other passengers came except us. My schoolmate and I sat there and looked each other, not knowing what was going on. Shortly after that, a dark blue uniformed lady came to us.

“You have no visa.” said the lady, starting a conversation. We were genuinely shocked. Indonesian passport holders need a visa to Turkey?? It had been part of the regulations that Indonesia passport holders doesn’t need a visa to go to Turkey as the moslem country solidarity agreement.

I was scared, confused and angry at the same time. I insisted, “Two years ago, I came to Istanbul and visa was not required. You can check the stamp in my passport.” Coincidentally, I traveled to Istanbul using the same passport number. She checked and found the stamp in my passport marking my arrival in Istanbul.

She replied, “Yes, I see. But now you need a visa to Turkey.” I still believed that she bullied us with visa as a pretext to get some extra income, aka a tool to get some bribery from foreign visitors. I just couldn’t accept it, but didn’t know how to solve it.

She added, “The flight from Amsterdam to Antalya only comes once a week. You have 2 choices, either pay the fine or stay in jail until the plane comes.”

Arguing about the visa thing would be a never ending story. We finally agreed to pay 100 euro fine each to end the nightmare. After that, the immigration officer stamped our passport with the biggest purple stamp we’ve ever seen, of which the size was almost as big as a regular visa sticker. 100 euro fine was nothing compared to joining the fellow convicts in jail. Leaving the airport, I was still wondering whether the visa issue was part of bribery tricks or purely a regulation change. I would find out after returning to Amsterdam.

ALANYA

Before Gazipaşa Airport functioned as an international airport in 2011, all international flights to Alanya could only land in Antalya Airport. From Antalya Airport, it took 2 hours to Alanya by bus. Alanya is situated in the eastern part of Antalya Province, the Mediterranean region of Turkey, 115 km from Antalya city.

Being in Alanya felt like being in Greece, rather than Turkey. Alanya is not Istanbul where grand mosques are the main tourist attractions. Somehow I forgot I was in a moslem country since caves, beaches and a fortress are more popular sites than mosques. The city has been a popular destination and (second) home of many European people due to its mild climate and picturesque view of the beach. Real estate business flourishes in Alanya thanks to them (if economy crisis doesn’t count). Needless to say, real estate in Turkey costs much less than that in Europe, especially in western Europe. Villa and apartment agencies claim in their pamphlets that their marketing team speak other European languages besides English. “Wir sprechen deutch”, “We spreken nederlands”, “Nous parlons français”  were written in front of their office.

SELJUK FORTRESS

The most dominating landmark of the beach city is Seljuk Fortress (also known as Alanya Castle), stretching 6.5 km including 140 towers, situated 250 metres above sea level. It was built in 13th century under the remains of Roman and Byzantine fortress after the conquest of Seljuk Sultan Alaaddin Keykubat in Alanya.

The fortress viewed from the Byzantine Church

one of the fortress gates

BYZANTINE CHURCH INSIDE SELJUK FORTRESS

Remains of Byzantine Church signifies the Christian era before the conquest of Sultan Alaaddin Keykubat. The frescoes once covered the dome and the wall are damaged, you only can see a slight trace of them nowadays. The old church was renovated in 1873.

RED TOWER

The Red Tower or Kizil Kule was named after the red bricks used to build the tower of which is 33 metres high. Sultan Alaaddin Keykubat completed the tower construction in 1226 to protect the Tersane or shipyard from the enemies. It is also one of the most important Sultan Alaaddin’s legacy depicting his power besides the fortress.

staircase to the top
the red tower
Turkish flag marking the fortress existence

MARINE LANDSCAPE: SELJUK SHIPYARD AND THE BEACH

cafes and restaurants facing Seljuk Shipyard
Ulaş Beach

DAMLATAŞ CAVE

Damlataş Cave is famous for its capability to heal asthma because its high rate of carbon dioxide, which is 8-10 times higher than normal and high rate of humidity. The site was accidentally found during the harbour construction while opening a stone quarry by a dynamite explosion. The beauty inside the cave drove the people to shift the explosion to a different location.

A SHOESTRING BUDGET TRAVEL

an Ottoman coin

The holiday offer we took to Alanya was a very good deal. It costed 250 euro all-inclusive: free breakfast, lunch and dinner in the hotel, 7 nights stay in a 3 stat hotel (for us, 3 star hotel was already good), a return flight ticket Amsterdam – Alanya, and a return shuttle bus from Antalya Airport to Alanya. The food was fair enough for saving our budget, especially after paying an unexpected 100 euro fine! But of course, eating the same kind of meal for 7 days in a row was killing us, too! We didn’t really do that, actually. The local food outside was much better, indeed, as long as they were hygienic. The hotel location was strategic since it was close to public transports and a local supermarket.

The only drawback we had – apart from forgetting the hotel name – the shower flexible hose leaked while we were out. When we returned to our room at 10 PM, our bathroom floor was full of water and the water almost reached the entrance door!!

IT’S JUST THE BEGINNING!

We accidentally found a row of local travel agents on street offering a package to other cities and regions outside Alanya. Seven nights in Alanya was enough to optimize our time in Turkey by exploring another city within the country. Nearly locked up abroad and flood in a hotel bathroom were just the beginning of the adventure. Regarding the visa issue, were we actually bullied or just careless? “Careless and Clueless Journey” will be continued – in Cappadocia!

the edge of a fortress

Bali Less Visited

Bali, nicknamed the island of Gods, is one of the islands in the world that could beat the fame of the country where it is located. Flood of foreigners all year long is no strange for a very popular destination like Bali.

Last year, my parents, their old friends and I headed to north Bali that took 3 hours starting from Ngurah Rai International Airport. We visited Bedugul, Lovina, Pemuteran until West Bali National Park, including small villages along the way. Our trip was only 2 nights, the time was tight and it wasn’t really a weekend break. The purpose of the trip: 80% villas and inhabited land observation, 20% leisure.

QUIETLY FAMOUS

Since the only international airport (Ngurah Rai) and more well-known areas namely Kuta, Legian, Seminyak, Ubud and Uluwatu are in south Bali, the north seems less exposed. But don’t get me wrong. This is not the story about terra incognita or the discovery of a new land like Columbus discovered America.

                                                                    The first stop: Lake Buyan, Bedugul

There were not many people on street regardless high season. Are these places dead for business? On the contrary. Unless one of us made a reservation, we wouldn’t get any room to stay. In fact, the north has been the top destination for snorkeling, diving and watching dolphins at dawn. Beaches are more quiet despite tourist occupancy, a perfect place for total retreat from daily stress at work, since they do anything but getting drunk and make loud noises. Unlike the south, the sea is more crowded than the street during the day in the north. Most visitors are families, young and retired couples. I believe groups of adolescents prefer going to the south for more places to hang out.

DINING EXPERIENCE

Forget about Hard Rock Café, high-end shopping street like Seminyak, night clubs, rows of souvenir shops, world-class rock concerts and so on. I didn’t see any, not even McDonald’s and KFC. Eating out is only possible either inside the hotels, resorts or at warungs (traditional small shops selling food, drinks and daily necessities) along the street. No wonder why tourists prefer being under the sea and on the beach unless they search for food or groceries.

The best dining experience was at May Mena warung, a small eatery having 3 dining tables that could not accommodate more than 20 guests. My father’s friend has been a regular customer of the warung and knows the owner pretty well. The menu listed on its poster was very limited. He ordered all dishes not listed on the menu, from pork saté, pork with sweet soy sauce, sautéed morning-glory, roasted peanuts until grilled fish. It felt as if we had a personal chef coming to our house, cooking for us. Last but not least, the watermelon was the best dessert ever! Very juicy and sweet!

She had bought the fish the day before to cook for the next afternoon. The biggest fish I’ve ever ate!

PICTURESQUE ACCOMMODATIONS

Breathtaking view of mountains, mangrove forest, beaches, clear blue sky and water are the some of the most crucial selling points of these magnificent world-class villas and resorts apart from luxurious rooms, excellent facilities and hospitality to spoil their guests to the max. These are some resorts and villas we managed to visit in the neighbourhood of Pemuteran Village and West Bali National Park.

ANEKA LOVINA VILLAS & SPA

We stayed at Aneka Lovina Villas & Spa. Compared to other luxurious villas and resorts available, it is relatively affordable with direct access to Lovina beach. The rooms supposed to be better, but we only got the leftovers since their best rooms were fully booked.

Aneka Bagus Lovina Garden

mangrove trees, the trees you won’t see on beaches in south Bali

Lovina beach behind the villas

MENJANGAN RESORT

Menjangan Resort is in the middle of West Bali National Park where it’s not supposed to be any properties allowed to build. Nonetheless, when money is power and the owner is rich, coming from a powerful family background like Tommy Soeharto, the youngest son of the former late President Soeharto, the story turns otherwise. It provides facilities that other resorts might not have, such as helipad and a double-decker minibus that can take you to the wildlife. Due to limited time, we only visited Bali Tower Restaurant to view the skyline of the national park and the ocean facing East Java by going up to the top floor of its wooden tower.

Facing East Java

Staircase to skyline

GAWANA NOVUS RESORT & SPA

Even drinking coconut water (the welcome drink) at Gawana Novus Resort and Spa could be an unforgettable experience while viewing the beauty of nature in front of you!

View of mountain and mangrove forest. The sea is calmer and no wave at all.

swimming pool with sea view

JEDA VILLA

Definitely, the owner of Jeda Villa is Dutch. It explains why Dutch language is in a language options on its website. I mean, French, German and Spanish are more common than Dutch, aren’t they?

THEY ARE AHEAD OF US!

As an Indonesian, It was surprising to find out that the only Indonesian people we met were those working in tourist attractions, hotels, local village people and our driver. Hotel officials greeted us in English as they didn’t expect to meet local tourists staying in their place. While having breakfast and dinner at the hotel, I only could hear ourselves speaking Indonesian. The rest spoke French, English, Spanish and other foreign languages. And who were on the beach? Local fishermen, local vendors and foreign visitors.

How both local and foreign landlords mark their inhabited lands

Foreigners seeking for tranquil and unspoiled nature have found their heaven on earth. Moreover, they have had property investments: several thousands of meter of land for capital gain and villas to rent for cash flow. Non business-oriented people build retirement homes for themselves. Either way, they have been ahead of locals to notice the future potential of the north.

It’s a common thing that locals, regardless of which country they come from, appreciate their homeland more after foreigners visit their place, embrace its beauty and finally make it “home”. Recently, locals outside Bali and a huge Indonesian corporation start to follow their footsteps, but still in the form of empty lands. The Balinese are happy enough to earn more money by selling their lands to outsiders. The expansion plan of the local airport, Letkol Wisnu Airfield, to ease the burden of overcrowded Ngurai Rai International Airport, have driven more investors to own lands in the north, even though the project remains uncertain.

Have these foreign investors earned anything yet? The answer may vary. The value of some most wanted lands have increased over 300% in less than a year. Some villas have gained popularity and had their guests via online, while others are unexpectedly quiet and less popular.

“I’m a friend, not food” – an implicit message from a local’s piglet

I’m amazed and proud that The Island of Gods I’ve visited more than 3 times still have more areas to explore, which is beyond my imagination. I only have one wish: the unspoiled nature remains unspoiled in the future after more tourists coming, more resorts and villas in these areas. In fact, as corruption has infiltrated in our government’s culture, it won’t be as easy as it sounds, although not impossible to achieve.

I found a sentence on the websites of villas and resorts that intrigues my mind, “We are located in the unspoiled nature of north Bali……”. Something like that. They are highly potential for spoiling the unspoiled nature, and implicitly confirm it. It is extremely necessary to control the amount of accommodations in touristic areas. I’m happy that so far, there are not so many of them yet in the north.

Perfect sunset in Gondol village. Some investors bought the land and built a villa facing the scenic beach.

LESS VISITED BY WHOM?

Until the day I wrote this, the north side we visited is still much less visited than the south, especially by local tourists (Indonesians outside Bali). I believe the old point of view remains in their mind: no shops, lavish buildings, restaurants and cafes to hang out equals to “nothing to see”. But at the same time, they complain that nowadays Bali is too crowded, the traffic is worse or too many annoying street vendors. I’ve heard it millions of times. I agree, partly, because these complaints are usually meant for south Bali. In a nutshell, they haven’t seen the whole Bali yet!

Sometimes, I don’t know whether my story is to tell my fellow readers about north Bali or to remind myself that I was left behind particularly about new facts and surprises I experienced in these less visited areas. But thank God, now I’m less retarded about my own country. Just a bit less. But, better late than never.