Thursday, May 29, 2008

Workout Journal – 2008 Personal Training Program Day 27

Program Day 27 (muscle group: Total Body – duration 1 hrs)

Warm up – Cross Trainer (20 minutes - 180 kcal target burn)

Total Body Endurance Circuit Training – EZ Barbell

Set 1
Squats (reps – 12, weight - 25 lbs)
Shoulder Press (reps – 12, weight – 25 lbs)
Upright Row (reps – 12, weight – 25 lbs)
Deadlift (reps – 12, weight – 25 lbs)
Bicep Curls (reps – 12, weight – 25 lbs)
Triceps Extension (reps – 12, weight 25 lbs)
Abs Crunches (reps – 30, weight – body weight)
Push Ups (reps – 10, weight – body weight)

Set 2
Squats (reps – 12, weight - 30 lbs)
Shoulder Press (reps – 12, weight – 30 lbs)
Static Lunges (reps – 12, weight – 30 lbs)
Upright Row (reps – 12, weight – 30 lbs)
Deadlift (reps – 12, weight – 30 lbs)
Bicep Curls (reps – 12, weight – 30 lbs)
Triceps Skullcrusher (reps – 12, weight 30 lbs)
Abs Crunches (reps – 30, weight – body weight)
Push Ups (reps – 20, weight – body weight)

Set 3
Squats (reps – 12, weight - 35 lbs)
Shoulder Press (reps – 12, weight – 35 lbs)
Static Lunges (reps – 12, weight – 35 lbs)
Upright Row (reps – 12, weight – 35 lbs)
Deadlift (reps – 12, weight – 35 lbs)
Bicep Curls (reps – 12, weight – 35 lbs)
Triceps Skullcrusher (reps – 12, weight - 35 lbs)
Abs Crunches (reps – 30, weight – body weight)
Push Ups (reps – 30, weight – body weight)

Abs Crunch Bench (reps – 30/30/30, weight – body weight)

This was my last PT session with my trainer. It was quite sad to know that the journey that we started way back in January has finally came to the last workout session with PT. To say that I have reaped many benefits from the training program would definitely be an understatement given the changes that I have gone through these past months since I started the program. Not only do I now see improvements physically compared to how I was in January, I also gained a lot of knowledge from the experience.

Moving ahead, I would be using my own programs which are a combination of the exercises that I have gone through with my PT as well as RPM sessions thrown in for my cardio. My PT and I have also discussed what areas I should try to develop more and which exercises I could do by myself. I have to maintain a balance between weight training and my cardio since I want to both bulk up and lose fat in the days to come. Staying on a 4 days on, 3 day off gym schedule per week currently works best for me so I don’t foresee that changing after my PT sessions. I have been able to stay disciplined enough to follow through with that fixed schedule.

My PT will still be at the gym should I need some advise so I could look him out if I needed help in the future. I can always ask to train again with him in the future should I decide to sign up for another block of PT sessions. At the moment, I want to try out working out without a PT to see if I can match or exceed the gains that I’ve seen while under the PT program. It would definitely be a challenge without a PT as a spotter to tackle the heavier weights that I’ve attempted while in the program but I could get the same benefits with more reps on lower weights that I can handle by myself.

I have to say that my workout experience with a PT has been very positive. I have not had any problems with him and generally very satisfied with the way he guided me and the progression that we went through with each sessions. More importantly, I could see measurable gains that I got from enrolling myself in the gym’s PT sessions. I would definitely recommend it to someone looking to make changes in their workout but it also boils down to how dedicated you are to stick to the program. It’s very easy to give up when it starts to feel too hard but once you get past the first bump in the road and realize that you have it in you to do it, the next bump would not seem too daunting.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Indonesia Trip '08 – Day 06 : Borobudur, Silversmith Visit and Kaliurang - Jogja

Up to this point of the trip, I have been dealing with some discomfort involving a dull throbbing pain with one of my tooth. It got worse after dinner on Day 05 which forced me to take the pain medication that my acting medical officer traveling companion had the foresight to bring with him. It all came to a head that particular night when I woke up whimpering at 2 am in the morning from the unbearable pain in my mouth. Getting sick or needing treatment during the trip was a possibility that we planned for and hoped to avoid but I never imagined that I would be the one needing medical attention. Took another dose of pain killers but woke up again at 4am to take another when it seems that the pain was getting worse. By the time I woke up again in the morning, I was down to my last pain killer dose and was feeling a bit wonky from what I already took.

Deciding to go ahead with the tour that has already been planned and I’ve been looking forward too for months, we got ready for breakfast which was provided as part of the package and then waited for the minivan pickup that would take us on our tour. Since we took the budget tour option, we would be sharing the minivan with several other tourists from the surrounding homestay places in the area. By the time we finished picking up the other people in our tour group, we ended up with 3 Malaysians (us), a French couple and a Dutch couple making up a total of 7 people in the minivan plus driver. Our first stop was to a pharmacist (known locally as an “apotik” from the word apothecary) for me to fill up my supply of pain killers pills. It was a good fortune to have someone who knows the medicine along in this trip or else I would be a loss at what to ask for. Thankfully as well the medicine that was available was not as expensive as I expected and I didn’t even need to get a doctor’s prescription to buy it. Once I got my pain killer stash, we continued on our way to the next destination.

Our first destination of the day was the Borobudur temple complex that was located about 45 minutes by car from Jogja city. I was not paying too much attention to the road to the temple complex thanks to being hopped on painkillers but thankfully for me, it did it’s work just as we droved into the parking area. Almost immediately after we got off the minivan, we were swarmed by touts trying to sell us t-shirts, plastic replicas of the temples and other knick knacks as souvenirs. Tying to avoid them was quite a challenge since they were very persistent and pushy to make their sale. Eventually we managed to walk into the complex entrance were we were given our entrance tickets. We had earlier paid the US11 entrance fee at the homestay last night which was what tourists would have to pay to enter the temple complex. Locals paid less than 10% of that cost which we could probably paid had we came here directly and tried to convince the people at the ticketing booth that we were local tourists. Since we were in a group of obviously international tourists, that ruse would not worked in this situation. Given that the money was used for the preservation efforts for the site, the extra fee was justifiable for me.

We also, as a group, decided to split the cost of hiring a guide to walk us through the temple complex. An hour guided tour, which was all that they offered, was available for 50,000 Rph per guide. Almost all of the guides available were fluent in English and was also able to speak quite a bit of French and Dutch for mixed groups like ours. I would assume that they would also have Japanese and Chinese speaking guides to cater for that group of visitors as well. We were also accompanied that day by two young ladies who were training to be guides which I found to be interesting (the idea, not the ladies :-p). It seems that secondary school leavers would sign up here to be trainee tour guides and learn about the complex and interacting with tourists from the more senior tour guide as an apprentice. I thought that this was a great idea since not only did they get a chance to learn about their own history but they also got a chance to enrich their language skills.

(Borobudur Temple Complex)

(R: Relief sample at lower level Borobudur, L: Restoration workers at Borobudur)

Our tour started from the temple grounds with stops at certain points where our guide would point out vantage points for good camera shots of the temple. He would also show us several of the relief details that told the story of the Buddha and his teachings. With nine levels to walk around, there were quite a few points of interest to stop and either take pictures of or listen to the explanations. I also noticed quite a few restoration workers doing their work at the site which gave us the opportunity to see how the preservation work was being done. We had the guide with use explaining the temple complex up to the circular levels where the bell stupas were located. From here on, we had an hour to explore the rest of the temple ourselves and we parted company with our informative tour guide. Since there were 7 of us in the group, we decided to give him and his team 70,000 Rph (10,000 Rph per person) for the guided tour including tips.

(Borobudur lower - mortal world - level sights)

(Stairway to Borobudur "heaven" levels)

The remaining circular levels were the most unique for me and what I have been imagining to see since I planned the trip. We did the challenge of trying to touch the right ring finger of the lucky Buddha inside his bell stupa and making our wish (I did and made my wish … see if it ever come true). We also took countless of pictures on top of Borobudur temple as we pondered (more or less) about the effort and devotion required to build such a magnificent wonder. Since the day was getting hotter and we still had to walk quite a bit to get back to our minivan, we decided to leave the temples after spending about 45 minutes in heaven (the circular levels) knowing that we can now tell ourselves that we have set foot on this wonder of this part of the world. As before, we were swarmed by touts again pushing their wares on to us. It was definitely hard not to empathize with their plight especially when these people had as recent as 2006 deal with earthquake devastations that destroyed most of their homes. I finally relented and bought some of their items but really limited myself to really just the things that I really wanted. It was not much but hopefully it would be made to good use.

(Three levels of heaven with stupas at Borobudur temple)

(Sights at Borobudur heaven levels)

(Parting shot of Borobudur as we left)

After a refreshing break with some cool young coconut water, we left Borobudur temple complex to head out to higher elevations to possibly see the summit of the volcanically active Mt. Merapi. The visit to the Kaliurang viewing platform was not actually part of the tour plan but it was added with compliments of the tour company for us that day since it was on the way to the Parambanan temple complex that we would be visiting later that day. But before we went there, we stopped on the way at a local silversmith shop which the area was well known for. We were met by one of the staff who guided us through the process of silver processing and the making of the intricate jewelry the area was famous for. I have this weakness for silver jewelry so it was a very dangerous situation for my wallet and credit cards to be in. There were more than a few pieces that caught my eye and there was definitely a pair of rings that I was dying to buy but while the prices were quite affordable, it was not something that I had to plan to buy on this trip. Last thing I needed (other than being wonk out on painkillers which I already was at that point) was to run out of money before the end of the trip.

After out brief stop at the silversmith shop, we proceeded to the Kaliurang viewing platform area. On the way there, we passed many villages and padi fields which were being harvested which also made for a good photo opportuinity. Along the way, we could see the Mt Merapi summit spewing up smoke in the distance. The driver told us that Kaliurang viewing platform was the closest that we could get to see Mt Merapi’s summit without actually hiking to it. Even then it was dependent on a measure of luck since Mt Merapi does get covered by clouds that would obstruct the views of the summit from Kaliurang. As we traveled on the winding road to higher and cooler altitudes, I kept wondering how much of the summit that I would be lucky enough to see. The thought of be able to actually see the summit of an active volcano was really exciting for me since it was never planned in our trip.

(R: Silversmith workshop and display room, L: Cloud covered summit of Mt Merapi viewed at Kaliurang)

Unfortunately for me, it was not meant to be. When we reached the Kaliurang viewing platform, we saw that the clouds had rolled in covering the summit top of Mt Merapi. We could not tell the difference between clouds and volcanic smoke when that happened and all we could see was just the side of the volcano. They had binoculars for rent for 3,000 Rph per set at the viewing platform but since there was not much to see, I decided not to rent them. From what I did see, thanks for the zoom feature on the camera I was using, were some distinct lava flow formations which I guessed was left behind by the last Mt Merapi eruption. After spending 30 minutes at the viewing platform, unsuccessful in our quest to see the summit of Mt Merapi, we began our descent down from the cooler climates to sea level to proceed to our next destination, the Parambanan temple complex.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Workout Journal – 2008 Personal Training Program Day 26

Program Day 24 (muscle group: Upper Body Conditioning – duration 1 hrs)

Warm up
Cross Trainer (20 minutes, 200 kcal target burn)

Pec Fly (reps – 12/10/8, weight – 50/70/90 lbs)
Incline Push-Ups (reps – 10/10/10, weight – body weight)
(note – push-ups are done in between the pec fly sets)
Chest Press (reps – 12/10/08, weight – 55/100/120 lbs)

Bend Over Row (reps – 12/10/08, weight – 45/65/85 lbs)
Deadlift (reps – 12/12/12, weight – 85/85/85 lbs)

Cable Upright Row (reps – 12/12/12, weight – 30/30/30 lbs)
Cable Side Raise (reps – 12/10/08, weight – 20/30/35 lbs)

Abs - Obliques
One-Handed Side Abs Bench Crunches (reps – 20/20/20 per side, weight – body weight)

Isolated Lower Abs Crunches (reps – 30/30/30, weight – bodyweight)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Indonesia Trip '08 – Day 05 : Bandung to Jogja and Jogja Walkabout

After managing a few hours of sleep under our belts, we got up early to get ready to leave Rumah Tubagus Homestay to catch our 7:00 am train to Jogja. We had already made arrangements the night before to have a taxi pick us up at the homestay so it was less one thing that we have to worry about that morning. We also paid up the total amount for the 2 nights stay at the Rumah Tubagus Homestay (700,000 Rph) to the proprietress who met us early in the morning to send us off and hand us our packed breakfast that we asked her to prepare the night before as well. By 6:15 am, we were all set to go and was waiting for the taxi in the garden. Thankfully, the taxi arrived a short time later and it was clear traffic all the way for us to the train station where we arrived at 6:30am.

I have to be honest and admit here that I am a bit of a train freak. I love riding on trains regardless what class coach I am in and how long it would take me. There is just something about chugging along on a railway track that brings back comforting memories of my childhood and all the other railway adventures that I have had before. When the opportuinity came up to ride in one during our trip in Indonesia, it was certainly something that I would not even think of missing out. It was not that hard to convince the others in the group to go with the plan seeing that the alternative was to fork out more money for a plane ticket or spend almost the same amount of time in an overnight bus trip. Added to the novelty of taking a train in a foreign country, I was certain that everyone would be on board (so to speak) with my plan of taking the train.

We had purchased tickets for the Executive Class coach and were shown to our coaches as soon as we were able to board the train. The coach itself was clean, comfortable and air conditioned. Since we were on a train that started it’s route from Jakarta earlier in the day, there were already people in their seats but we didn’t have much trouble finding our seats since we already had reservations. Another item that I noted was the existence of a porter service at the train station which I have not seen before in KL. For a nominal fee, these uniformed porters who I believe were employed by the train station would help travelers with their loading and unloading of their luggage. Since we didn’t really have that much of luggage to carry, we obviously did not have to use their services but learning that they were available just increased the novelty factor in this train journey.

The train journey was scheduled for 8 hours from Bandung to Jogja which we traverse westwards through the Java island. Since the Argo Willis train service was a somewhat express train service, the train only stopped for about 15 minutes at selected stations. The tickets that we purchased also included a fairly filling lunch set which consisted of plain rice, fried chicken, tempe and fried eggs. Drinking water was also included in the set but if you ask for juice instead then you’ll be charged 7,000 Rph additional. Lunch was served to us by train stewards who I don’t think we have on Malaysian trains at least on the train rides that I have taken here. I remember having to either go to the meal car to get something to eat or pack our own lunches when I take the trains here. Of course, I have yet to try a long haul train trip in Malaysia on a first class ticket so I’m not sure if the same service would be available in that class.

Once we were done with lunch, we had the rest of the trip to look forward to. They had TVs on the train that was tuned to the train’s onboard entertainment package which repeated after a while. Other than walking to the doors to snap pictures of the scenery that was passing us by and to update my travel notes, there was actually not much to do during the train trip. Unlike Malaysia, the scenery outside of the window consisted of an unending vista of padi field green occasionally broken by the red clay tiled roofs of villager’s houses and small towns. The train breezed by through these small towns quite fast if it was not in one of the stops scheduled for the train. Since it was not announced, I wished that I had taken the list of stops this train made since I was at the time not sure if we had already arrived in Jogja. We were already a bit late at the time since the train made some unscheduled stops between stations and I was afraid that I would miss the Jogja station since it was not the last destination for this train service.

(L: Updating my travel log book on the train, R: Interior of our Executive class coach)

(Selected scenes that passed us by as our train travelled from Bandung to Jogja)

It was nearly an hour later at 3pm when we finally pulled into Jogja station. In hindsight, while it was a long trip, a train ride in Indonesia was something that I would remember always in my travel. Once we got off the train, we were met by the driver that was sent by the homestay where we were staying at during our stay in Jogja. Unlike the other cities, I had arrange a full stay and tour package with Delta Homestay for our time in Jogja. We were suppose to start on our tour the morning we reached Jogja but since we arrived late that day, we had to reschedule the sites that we were suppose to visit that day to another day. Once we had checked and stowed away our gear into our rooms at Delta, we had the choice of just hanging out by their swimming pool for the rest of the day or explore the city on our own which we ended up doing. Having had some ideas from our guidebook, we decided to take the local mode of transport, the becak, to go around the city.

The becak, what the locals here called the trishaw, was undoubtedly the most common sight in Jogja. For 30,000 Rph, they would take you to the sights around town as well as to places to shop where they do earn some commission for bringing in customers. It was how they made their living and while it was a bit irritating to be shuttled from one shop to another, I wondered how much do they actually get from it considering the time and effort that they spend ferrying us around town. Another thing that I found out is that you are not obligated to buy anything if you didn’t want to at these stores since they already got their commissions just for bringing the customers. Of course that didn’t work for a bunch of shopaholics on a shopping binge like us!

The first place that they took us was a batik factory where we were shown the process of making Indonesian hand painted and printed batiks. Since it was an actual working factory, we got to see and learn the process from start to finish from the workers who were there. After the tour, we were ushered into their showroom where their products were displayed for sale. Seeing that the prices were a tad more than what we were willing to pay for, we said or thanks and moved on to the next place which was another batik studio near the Kraton area which specialized in batik artwork. They had a lot of choices to choose from and I found myself a nice piece to frame and put in my bed room. I was also looking for something for my living room but they didn’t have something that I liked in the size that I needed.

After the batik studio, we stopped at the Wayang Kulit shop a few doors down the street. There we got to see some of the process of how the Wayang Kulit puppets were made as well as examples of the wooden puppets used in Wayang Golek. They also had some carved masks they used in certain ceremonial dances which also looked nice but a bit out of my price range. For obvious reasons, I rather not keep masks and puppets in the house so I mostly browsed through their inventory. After out stop there, we proceeded to a batik clothing house to see the deals that they had there. It was definitely a lot cheaper than the first batik place that we went to and I really went a wee bit overboard buying batik material for my mum and sisters. It beat trying to figure out what to get them as a souvenir from my travels. According to the guidebook and locals, Jogja batik was cheaper than Solo batik but their designs were more traditional of the two.

We made another shopping stop at a local T-Shirt (which locals know them as “Kaus”) shop where they had a variety of T-shirts in all the colors of the rainbows and all types of captions both nice and naughty. Having already bought my share of T-shirts in Bandung, I only bought a child’s size one for my nephew here where I noticed that everything had the Dagadu brand. I’m not sure if it’s a brand name or a something that they print on to denote it as a product of Jogja. After having our fill of the shopping trip, we decided to find somewhere to get some dinner. We knew that we wanted to try a Jogja specialty rice dish called “Nasi Gudeg” so we told the becak driver to take us where they would go to eat nasi gudeg. We were taken to an unmarked shop located near the Kraton’s alun-alun area were we were shown to our table and shown a menu of the selection of what was available.

(L: Selection of Wayang Kulit characters, R: Dagadu T-Shirt shop, Jogja)

Nasi Gudeg was essentially plain rice with chicken, fried tofu, tempe served with a sweetish curry/stew made out of young jackfruit cooked for hours in palm sugar and other spices. We also had a sambal that night that was called sambal goreng kerecek which was made out of the skin of the water buffalo. I have to say that the dinner that night was my first experience in the trip of eating something that I was totally unfamiliar with from past experiences. Up to that point, everything that we ate was something that we knew or had before back home but Nasi Gudeg was uncharted territory for us. All in all, it was quite nice even though it was a bit too sweet for my taste. Thankfully they brought out the special chili paste sambal specially reserved for Malaysians since they know that we would always ask for the hotter option than the locals. Sambal Goreng Kerecek was another thing that I enjoyed after being able to look beyond the fact that I was actually eating buffalo skin.

After dinner for the 3 of us and our 3 becak drivers, we decided to take in some free cultural experience in the form of a free Wayang Kulit show that they held nightly at the nearby Museum Sonobudoyo. The show was held in a special hall which we had to pay an entrance fee to attend. Unfortunately, no one told us that the hall was not air conditioned and there were no fans to cool the air inside down. It would have not been too bad had the windows were opened to let in the cool night air but unfortunately for us that was not the case. We sat in the hall for about 45 minutes trying to enjoy the Wayang Kulit show that was being narrated in Javanese before we surrendered and beat a hasty exit to the cooler night air outside. Having enough of shopping, food and culture for the night, we decided to head back to our homestay. If riding the becak was exciting during the day, it was doubly exciting at night when it seems that all that was between you and getting hit by a car on the street was the skill of your becak driver.

(Wayang Kulit Performance at Museum Sonobudoyo. Too bad it was totally in Javanese and the hall was too hot to stay long)

After paying for our becak trip (50,000 Rph per person including tips), we decided to rest and reflect on our day with some late night coffee and conversations at the verandah of our rooms. Our Jogja adventure was just beginning.

Workout Journal – 2008 Personal Training Program Day 25

Program Day 25 (muscle group: Total Body Endurance – duration 1 hrs)

Warm up
Cross Trainer (20 minutes, 200 kcal target burn)

Total Body Endurance Workout (3 supersets with minimum rest in between)
Dumbbell Side Raise (reps – 12/12/12, weight – 20/20/20 lbs)
Dumbbell Front Raise (reps – 12/12/12, weight – 20/20/20 lbs)
Dumbbell Lateral Raise (reps – 12/12/12, weight – 20/20/20 lbs)
Dumbbell Shoulder Press (reps – 10/15/20, weight – 20/20/20 lbs)
Dumbbell Bicep Curl (reps – 12/12/12, weight – 20/20/20 lbs)
Dumbbell Triceps Extension (reps – 12/12/12, weight – 20/20/20 lbs)
Static Lunges (reps – 20/20/20, weight – body weight + 40 lbs barbell)
Raised Knee Upper Abs Crunches (reps – 20/20/20, weight – body weight)
Push-Up (reps – 10/20/30, weight – body weight)


Chest Press (reps – 3 sets x till fatigue failure rep, weight – 85/75/65 lbs)
Back Row (reps – 3 sets x till fatigue failure rep, weight – 100/90/80 lbs)

Isolated Lower Abs Crunches (reps – 30/30/30, weight – bodyweight)

Added a new routine – DropSet where you start at a high weight and execute the exercise with as many number of sets as you are able to do before losing the correct form then dropping the weight to the next level down to restart the new set doing as many number of sets again with the new weight.

The goal is to go through all of the sets with either no or the barest duration of rest in between sets.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Workout Journal – 2008 Personal Training Program Day 24

Program Day 24 (muscle group: Total Body Conditioning – duration 1.5 hrs)

Warm up
Cross Trainer (20 minutes, 200 kcal target burn)

Lower Body
Seated Leg Press (reps - 15/15/12/12/4, weight – 121/209/275/341/429 lbs)
Static Lunges (reps – 15/15/15/15, weight – body weight)
(note – static lunges are done in between the leg press sets)

Pec Fly (reps - 15/12/12, weight – 50/55/60 lbs)
Incline Push-Ups (reps – 10/10/10, weight – body weight)
(note – push-ups are done in between the pec fly sets)
Isolinear Bench Press (reps – 15/12/12, weight – 25/35/45 lbs)

Iso Lateral Row (reps – 15/12/12, weight – 25/35/45 lbs)

Abs - Obliques
One-Handed Side Abs Bench Crunches (reps – 20/20/20 per side, weight – body weight)

Standing E-Z Bar Bicep Curl (3 position – continuous without rest between position change)
- Low to Elbow level (reps – 7/7/7, weight – 20/30/40 lbs)
- Elbow to Chin level (reps – 7/7/7, weight – 20/30/40 lbs)
- Full extension from low to chin (reps – 7/7/7, weight – 20/30/40 lbs)
Single Hand Hammer Curl (reps – 15/15/15 each side, weight – 10/10/10 lbs)

Cable Triceps Extensions (reps – 15/15/12, weight – 14/25/30 lbs)

Isolated Lower Abs Crunches (reps – 30/30/30, weight – bodyweight)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Indonesia Trip '08 – Accommodation Write-Up: Rumah Tubagus Homestay, Bandung

Finding a hostel or homestay in Bandung on the Net was a much more difficult task as I quickly found out when I was planning this trip. Most of the international hostel connection websites had listings for Jakarta hostels/homestay and very few listings for other big cities in Indonesia. The ones that they had listed did not have complete contact information and/or did not get very good reviews from visitors who had stayed in them. An easier choice was to choose to stay in once of the better rated hotels that were available in Bandung but that would not be in line with out traveling charter of finding frugal accommodations. Another alternative was to go to the street where the guidebooks said where most of the budget accommodations were located and check out their availability ourselves before deciding the one to take.

Since we rather have a confirmed place once we reach Bandung, hunting for a place on the day that we arrive was not a very appealing idea. It was by chance later that I found out about Rumah Tubagus Homestay from one of the Bandung tourist forums. There was not much information on that initial forum posting as it was a query about the place and how clean it was but nevertheless it was enough for me to start searching for more info on Net for it. A few linked websites later I finally found the proprietress’s blog that advertised her homestay and more importantly the email address to contact her for reservations. I wrote to her to inquire about the availability and pricing and received a fairly prompt reply from her on my queries. A few emails later, I was sourcing for guided tours and trip highlights information from her, we confirmed our reservation for the homestay for the during of our trip in Bandung. The email transactions between myself and Kanti, the proprietress, were very prompt and informative.

We headed straight to Rumah Tubagus Homestay from the mall where the minivan we took from Jakarta dropped us. Since it was not listed in any guidebooks, I was worried that we might have a difficult time finding the place but Kanti was thoughtful enough to provide us directions and landmarks to use when telling local taxi drivers how to get to her place. We soon arrived in a very quiet and secluded residential area where Rumah Tubagus Homestay was located and was met by the proprietress herself who let us into the property. Her homestay was actually part of the garden pavilion connected to the main house that she was staying in. A very green, verdant and cozy garden greeted visitors first before coming to the main entrance of the homestay.

(The garden at Rumah Tubagus Homestay where we had our breakfast)

The homestay unit consisted of 2 rooms, 1 kitchenette area and 1 bathroom. One of the rooms had a queen size bed which could easily fit 3 people if they were willing to pile into the same bed and had cable TV in it. The other room had 3 twin size bed, one of them was actually a rollaway bed which can be stowed underneath one of the beds when not in use which was helpful as the room was a bit on the small side if all 3 beds were used. Fans were also provided in the rooms but we hardly needed it since Bandung nights were cool enough without needing fans or AC. The kitchenette area had a sink for washing up as well as coffee making facilities for us to use. The owners also thoughtfully included a selection of free mineral water, coffee and tea for our consumption which was replenished daily as well as full complement of mugs, bowls and dishes to use. The bathroom had fresh clean towels and hot water which was definitely needed since mornings in Bandung were quite cold.

(Master bedroom with queen bed at Rumah Tubagus Homestay)

(View outside of the Master Bedroom)

(2nd room with the 3 twin size beds)

(Kitchenette area with sink, pantry, table and chair. A kettle and a hot plate warmer was also included)

Rumah Tubagus Homestay was located quite near to the Dago Street market and there was a wealth of warongs to eat in just a few meters away. Had we stayed longer in Bandung, we would definitely had taken the opportuinity to sample the warong food there as well as take in a morning stroll to the market which was just around the corner. Transportation-wise, it was easy to flag down a taxi or an angkut once we walked out to the main street which was only a few meters where the homestay was located. From there, we could reach the major shopping outlets in Dago area within minutes and other areas were also conveniently reachable. Even with all this transportation options near it, Rumah Tubagus was still very quiet as it was locate a bit in from the main road. Sitting in the gardens outside our rooms, you could hardly notice the sounds of the traffic that was just meters away.

Breakfast was also included in our stay package and we were even given an menu to select what we wanted for breakfast which we passed to her the night before. On our first day there, our nasi goreng breakfast was served in the garden where we got to sit and enjoy the morning air. There was quite a lot for the 3 of us so as far as food is concerned it was not disappointing. We already had our coffee and tea from the kitchenette and Kanti also provided us with a large bottle of mineral water for us to bring along for our trip. The other very nice personal touch that morning was the hand written note that Kanti left for us detailing the list of places to go to for our shopping trip as well as places for us to eat and hang out. It was very thoughtful of her and we definitely appreciated her tips. She also helped us by packing some sandwiches for our breakfast on the second morning as we had to leave the homestay very early in the morning to catch our train to Jogja and could not have a sit down breakfast like we did the morning before.

The only minus point that I can think of to say about Rumah Tubagus Homestay would be the lack of adult size towels in the house. While the towels provided were sufficient to dry off with after a shower, it was too small to wrap around the waist while walking from the room to the bathroom. Unless you’re traveling with people who know you well enough to not be fazed by your exhibitionist streak, having your own larger towel or bringing something to wear before coming out of the bathroom would be recommended. I did mean to tell Kanti about it but I think I forgot to in the end so probably I should send her an email to recommend bigger towels for guests.
(Note: I have received an email reply back from Kanti stating that this oversight will be rectified as soon as possible)

A night’s stay at Rumah Tubagus Homestay cost us 350,000 Rph for the whole homestay unit. Since it was a full package deal, you would be charged the same price regardless if you had less than five people in the group. Given the convenience, comfort and personal touch from the owners, I felt that the price was definitely worth it and I look forward to stay with them the next time I am in town. Since they have not had a lot of exposure in the guidebooks and hostel connection websites, I hope this write up would help tell people about this cozy homestay that I would recommend highly to budget visitors visiting Bandung.

Full Contact Details:

Rumah Tubagus Homestay,
Attn: Kanti Widiastuti.
Jalan Tubagus Ismail 3 No. 12
Bandung, Indonesia

PH: +62 815 7389 0426
Email :

Even The Stars Are Trying To Tell Me Something

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Indonesia Trip '08 – Day 04 : Shopping in Bandung

After spending the whole morning at the Kawah Putih Crater lake, we decided to head back to Bandung to get some lunch before going on our shopping trip. For lunch that day, we decided to test out one of the guidebook’s recommendation and try the Sundanese food at Warung Nasi Mang Udju (Jln Dewi Sartika). Finding it proved to be a little bit harder than I expected for a place listed in the guidebooks as it was only listed with the street name but we did eventually find the place after a few missed turns. The place was less impressive looking that what I had expected to be included in the guidebook but the moment we tasted the food there, I instantly understood why it got the mentioned. We decided to try a little of almost all the dishes offered to get a taste of authentic Sundanese food and it was really tasty. At 85,000 Rph for the 4 of us, it was also a cheap but satisfying meal.

Note : For obvious reasons, we didn’t take many pictures during the shopping trip (too busy trying to find that one perfect outfit to buy .. heheheh) so there will be no pictures for this entry.

After finishing with our lunch, it was off for our shopping excursion in Bandung. Our first stop was Rumah Mode which was recommended by a friend who goes there whenever he comes to town. Set in a resort-like setting, Rumah Mode felt more like a boutique instead of an upscale factory outlet. They carry mostly clothes, bags, shoes and other leather goods for men, women and children. Many have those famous labels that you wouldn't even dream to owning unless you were really well off which definitely didn’t include us. We spent some time browsing for items to buy there but I have to say that I was not overly impressed by the selections. Prices are a bit on the high side but I didn’t really feel that the quality of the products were any different from the ones you can get at the factory outlets back home.

A lot of the labels available there were definitely from those that you would not find in your average factory outlet back home. While it might definitely appeal to the label conscious set among us, I’m always wary of going just for the label without knowing if the shoes or clothes were actually from that designer line. Why commit the ultimate faux pas of parading around something that profess to be from a famous designer label only to be told later that it’s a cheap knock off with just the label sewn on. A lot of the items with the more famous labels did have the look and feel of being just an overseas knock off rather than an overstock of the real thing so buyers would definitely do well to beware while shopping her. Having said that, there were quite a few gems to be found at Rumah Mode if one were patient enough to go through all the items.

After spending time at Rumah Mode, we decided to visit the famously renowned “Jeans Street” or more officially known as Jln Cihampelas. The place was basically a narrow street with huge shops selling locally made denim jeans, t-shirts and every other type of clothing imaginable on each side of the road. Another claim to fame for the area were the huge eye-catching plaster statues of pop culture and comic book icons above every store selling jeans in the area. Looking around I could see characters like “Rambo”, “Superman”, “Spider-man” and even “Catwoman” being used on store fronts to sell jeans. It was a pity that it was slightly drizzling when we got there or I would have had a blast trying to take a picture of each plaster statute in the area. Instead, we took cover in the shops to browse their goods. I didn’t plan to buy any jeans there but I did buy myself a really tight-fitting long sleeve round neck shirt which in hindsight wasn’t that good of an idea as I am now wondering when the heck I am going to wear it.

After unsuccessfully trying to reign in my impulse buying habit, we decide to walk down to Cihampelas Walk which was just around the corner from where we were for some JCo doughnuts (again … we basically stuffed ourselves silly with JCo every time we get) and some coffee to ward off the chill. Cihampelas Walk was basically a collection of restaurants and shops not unlike the one we find in KL where a lot of people like to hang out. Since we had an early day the following morning and still had a few hours to kill, we decide that we would send our stuff back to the homestay first before going out to Dago street to check out what was there. I had noted a Café Oh La La at one of the malls there the night before and knew that it would be opened later than the other shops in the area. We left Cihampelas Walk with that plan in mind but not before spending more rupiahs at a nearby street cart vendor who was selling locally designed T-Shirts with quite amusing captions printed on it.

We drove next to Plaza Dago when me and another of my fellow traveler got off while the other went back to the homestay to stow away the bags of items that we bought that day before rejoining us at Plaza Dago. Since I had to reconfirm our tour reservations with the homestay that we would be staying in our next destination, the first thing that I had to do was to look for an internet café to get on line. Not finding any at Plaza Dago, we started to walk down the darkening streets (with street lights on this time around – thankfully) for a warnet (what the locals call an internet café). Fortunately for us, we found one just a block away from where we were and we settled down with some Internet time. The computers and transmission speeds were good enough for me to shoot off some emails, update my Facebook profiles and even chatted with a few friends on YM while waiting for the other companion to arrive. It was also quite cheap as I think I only spent about 4,000 Rph for the ½ hour of using their computers.

We rejoin our companion in front of the Dago Factory Outlet where we went in with the intention of buying some new socks to replace the once that we were wearing since they started to stink from repeated wearing. We ended up buying everything else except the socks that we planned to buy. Dago Factory Outlet carried the less branded items than Rumah Mode but were from brands that we were more comfortable buying and of course wearing. I ended up buying several Urban Outfitter cut-off shirts with naughty captions, a few Echo Park shirts and one Burberry T-shirt. Unlike Rumah Mode, the items at Dago Factory Outlet felt more like line over runs rather than knock offs of the real thing. Given the range of items and availability of many sizes, I would definitely recommend Dago Factory Outlet over Rumah Mode to visitors to Bandung. It may not be as flashy at what you can find in Rumah Mode but it makes more sense to shop there especially when you’re on a tighter budget.

After swiping my credit card for the first time on the trip at Dago Factory Outlet, we proceeded to Café Oh La La for some supper and drinks. While the place did get more crowded as the night progressed, it was no where as exciting to hang out at as their Jakarta establishment. Unlike the meat market at the Jakarta establishment, the crowd there was definitely on the younger mixed set who were there mostly to hang out with their friends. We had typical pub grub of pizza and sandwiches for supper which was fairly uninspiring but was adequate as a meal. After paying 105,000 Rph for the food and drinks, we left Plaza Dago at 10pm to go back to out homestay by taxi since we were not sure if we can identify which angkut to take to get back. Once we got back, we started to repack our bags (Roll not fold! The secret to successful packing!) to include all the items that we bought and turned in early since we had another early start the following morning.

I'll Bounce Back

Think Of Me - Phantom of the Opera

Think of me
think of me fondly, when
we've said goodbye
remember me
once in a while, please
promise me you'll try

When you find,
that once again you long
to take your heart back,
and be free
if you ever find a moment,
spare a thought for me

We never said
our love was evergreen
or as unchanging as the sea...
but if you can still remember,
stop and think of me

Think of all the things
we've shared and seen,
don't think about the things
which might have been

Think of me
think of me waking, silent
and resigned...
imagine me,
trying too hard to
put you from my mind...

Recall those days,
look back on all those times,
think of the things
we'll never do...
there will never be a day when
I won't think of you

We never said
our love was evergreen
or as unchanging as the sea...
but please promise me,
that sometimes
you will think of me

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Indonesia Trip '08 – Day 04 : Kawah Putih, Bandung

We started Day 4 of our trip quite early as we had made plans to spend half of the day sightseeing and the other half shopping. Given the distances that we planned to travel, we decided the day before to charter a taxi for the whole day which cost us 500,000 Rph excluding toll charges and entry fees. After having a simple but filling breakfast of nasi goreng prepared by our homestay host, we left Bandung heading to even higher altitudes to visit the craters that the area was famous for. While most visitors to Bandung would head towards Tangkuban Perahu for their spot of crater sightseeing, we opted instead to visit the less popular and more distant Kawah Putih crater.

Being less popular meant that even some taxi drivers had trouble figuring out how to get there which unfortunately included our taxi driver. He had to stop a few times along the way to ask for directions to Kawah Putih from the locals which gave us a chance to appreciate the surrounding scenery. The drive to Kawah Putih took us nearly 2 hours through the town of Kapo where the narrow single lane road was crowded with all manner of vehicles. Quite a number of times our taxi was surrounded by other cars, buses, lorries, becak, horse drawn carts and not to mention pedestrians on foot. It was definitely the image that one would conjure when thinking about the population density of Java. Looking back, I think the massive number of people on the road could be attributed to what seemed to me to be their market day since everyone seems to be converging to the main market there.

After the chaos of Kapo, the traffic began to thin out as we approach the winding roads into Ciwedey. As the roads start to wind into higher altitudes, the temperature began to noticeably dropped into more welcomed coolness compared to the muggy temperature in the lowlands. Due to the lower temperate temperatures, Ciwedey was also famous for it’s strawberry which one could see planted in plots outside of almost every other house in the area. All these plots had signs that invited people to stop and pick their own strawberries but unfortunately for us, their strawberries were not in season and we could not stop to pick them. We did get a spot to stop where we got to stretch out our legs and take photos of the surrounding padi fields and strawberry plots to remember the place by.

(R: Padi terrace and L: Strawberry plots at Ciwidey)

(Strawberries not yet ready for picking at Chiwidey)

After the long drive, we finally reached the entrance to the Kawah Putih park where we had to pay 45,000 Rph for the 4 of us and for the car since we can drive the car all the way up to the crater site. There was some parking space at the entrance if we chose hike the distance up the mountain instead but the 20 minute drive looked steep and hiking would definitely tire us out faster at this altitude. In addition to the visitors parking, there was also a sign that pointed to an off road buggy adventure course at the foot of the mountain that looked like fun. Since we did not plan to break our necks speeding in the woods in buggies, we gave it a miss as we began our ascent higher into the part. The road leading to the crater site was fairly well maintained if not a wee bit on the narrow side. Thankfully it didn’t have a lot of twists to it which made it less challenging for the motion-sickness inclined person like myself.

(Sign at entrance to Kawah Putih, Ciwidey, Bandung)

We soon reach the parking space designated for cars and minivans near the crater site. From there, we had to walk up a little bit more before we reach the crater proper. True to it’s lesser popularity, there were only a few shops opened selling food and trinkets in the area and there were less visitors at Kawah Putih than I would assume would be in Tangkuban Perahu. The air was definitely cooler up there as we started our walk up to the crater. Passing the people selling shawls and headgear for more cooler days as well as the numerous strawberry stands (15,000 Rph per box), we finally saw our first sight of the crater lake of Kawah Putih. We could of course smell the sulfur coming out of it but the surreal greenish-white lake surrounded by mist quickly made us forget the smell that surrounded us.

(On approach to the Kawah Putih lake)

It was like nothing I have ever seen in Malaysia. The rainwater that had accumulated in the crater mixed with the minerals in the ground and heated by the volcanic heat still present in the area gave it it’s unique coloring. I would think that with the sulfur that was previously mined in the area, the waters would be more yellowish but is was not so at the lake. I’m guessing there were other elements in play (lead?) which gave it the greenish-white hue to the waters. Since the crater lake was not a very big one, we were able to walk almost all the way around it except to the parts where the lake met the almost vertical crater lip that towered high above the lake level. The water itself was quite warm to the touch and supposedly the waters were therapeutic for some skin diseases but we didn’t go wading into the lake especially where there were no signs indicating that it was safe to walk into the lake.

(Some views surrounding the lake)

There were still a lot of trees surrounding the lake and a lot of them were twisted and gnarled for what I’m guessing was the effect of the composition of the soil there. According to the literature, there hasn’t been any historical eruption of the crater so there were not many signs of volcanic activity in the area apart from the crater and the heated lake. As we walked around the lake, winds would occasionally gust through the treetops down into the crater lake which lifted the mist that blanketed most of it. This gave us views of the other side of the lake where it met the vertical crater lip on the other side of the lake bank. Of course the mist would quickly descend down again once the winds stopped blowing to hide everything again in it’s cool embrace.

(Sample of vegetation surrounding the lake)

(Scenes that we saw when the mist was blown off the lake surface by the winds)

We spent almost 2 hours at the lake taking pictures of it and ourselves at the lake knowing that it was not something that we get to see that often. For me personally, it was something that I always dreamed to see and here I was seeing the beauty of a lake in a crater of a volcano in Indonesia. It was then that I really felt that this trip was becoming all that I had planned and dreamed about and that this was really just the beginning of our journey of discovery.

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