Wednesday, January 25, 2006

i was in a meeting when my mobile suddenly buzzing. the bottom line? an invitation to a special occasion with round trip airline ticket and a club accomodation ready under my name.

we are very sorry to invite you in such a short notice, the american accented voice on the other line said and continued, your airline ticket is ready. we would like you to come.

another bali trip.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

masyu to japanese is matthew to american or western name. a 3.5 years old kid who runs here and there, climbs up and down the stairs, and a kid who never forgets to ask any kind of question that make his mom, uncle, grandmother and grandfather need to think hard to answer whatever question pops up from his mind.

once he asked me, "why motorcycle is smaller than car?" another time he asked, "why asih (our household assistant) is not my cousin?" then there was question like, "why can't i fly like airplane?"

mom was like -- you little creature!!!

a week after i returned from tokyo, my sister and her son flew to jakarta to visit us. it was such a joy for my parents to see their grandson and a happy time for me to be able to play with my nephew again.

the house suddenly became alive and -- messy and i became less workaholic ever since he came.

my co-workers love him and he becomes -- how is masyu -- kinda question everyday. sometimes, i really miss him at the office, too.

he picks up some of the indonesian language and blends it with the english language in such funny things like -- go home yuk when he was bored being out from home or maybe later yah when i asked him to brush his teeth.

masyu and i bonded closely since i was in japan. once when i came home late and he was still up, he sat with me in the dining room and we talked -- just the two of us -- about what he did earlier.

funny thing happened when his mom asked him to take shower because we were going out and he said, " i want to mandi with oom iman!!"

my sister handed me his towel and told me -- go mandi with him.

and, i said to her, "no waaaay!"

Saturday, January 21, 2006

then came my last day in japan.

silently, i stood in the patio of my sister's apartment witnessing my last sunset in japan. the sun came down to the open horizon - hiding its strong aura behind the ever presence mount fuji as if to say farewell to the passing day.

slowly the darkness fell and the earth seemed to halt.

in my own silence -- i heard nothing but serenity.

one of my favorite shots from my trip to tsukuba. it was just around 16:45 pm in the afternoon, but the sun has already set and darkness started to blanket the city.

its last ray of lights gave weak shadows to the rows of sillhoueted trees.

with some soy sauce, this baby octopus makes a tasty and cruchy sashimi. the only thing that stopped me to buy was its price. so expensive to just have some crunchy meal.

one of my favorite things to buy at the grocery store was a pint of green tree ice cream. ice cream isn't my favorite dessert to enjoy, actually -- but when you are in japan, grab this delicious green tea ice cream and you will be hooked on.

there are many ways to make money. it was in a park near the tokyo station where i encountered a small minivan with a chef inside. the interior looked cramped, but it made me curious to walk toward it.

inside, you could find stoves, small refrigerators and all the kitchen amenities you could think of. whoa!

unfortunately, i didn't have time to taste what he offered at that time.

japanese love cute things and one of their passions is reading manga - the comic novels. based on their favorite past time, i found a lot - i mean a lot - of cute packagings for many products i couldn't even find elsewhere.

and, they market them with beautiful cartoon characters.

everytime i went to grocery stores or drug stores, i took shots of many cute and interesting product packagings like the one above.

another example of japanese cute product packaging. what in the world is this? mascara? no? eye liner?

anyway, the cute characters are all in women's product packagings only -- not for the man's stuffs -- as japanese men adore anything macho and manly.

nothing beats the softness and warmness of a cashmere turtle necks. before the new year, this cost you 6,990 yen. after the new year's sale, this colorful cashmere turle necks sold for 2,990 yen. when they said SALE they really meant it.

i've never enjoyed sitting for a long time in a toilet, but in japan a trip to do number one or two could be a trip you never forget.

the toilet seat mostly were heated in the winter time to keep your bottom warm. and -- to save you from embarrasment from your toilet's neighbors when you -- you know -- passing gas and/or delivering the stuffs from inside your bowels -- you know -- due to having diarhea, perhaps -- you just press a button that will bring up a sound
-- could be a loud flushing sound, the sound of waterfalls and so on. the purpose is to cover the sound you made when passing gas or any embarassing sound from your bottom.

after you do your stuff, there are selection of buttons to press to rinse and clean -- there is one for gentlemen and another for ladies. of course, i tried both of them and i could feel the different by the spray of the water.

of course, your trip won't be complete when your bottom is still wet. then just press the dryer button and warm air will come to dry your bottom.

then, you just flush completely to finish your trip to the loo loo land.

then otosan bought us traditional japanese fried snacks served only to celebrate new year. tasted like fried red bean. what made each one different was the taste of its wraps. there was green tea flavor, original flavor and -- i forgot what they have.

the recipe has been pass from generation to generation. in a cold late december weather, eating something hot and tasteful was very comforting.

Friday, January 20, 2006

when i shaked the metal cylinder tube, a long bamboo stick came out with a number on it. it was number 43. otosan helped me to find shelf number 43 amongst all the numbers they have and i pulled out a piece of paper from inside it. this is my foretelling life according to stick number 43 for the year 2006.

career wise and love wise -- otosan said, it was a good one.

i crossed my fingers for that.

three weeks ago, i visited this park in the city of tsukuba. the sky was so blue and the air was so clean and fresh. it reminded me to a park i used to visit - loose park.

this is my nephew's favorite park as he could run, jump up and down, and kick a soccer ball with me. after he got tired, we walked to the bridge to feed fish and ducks with some breads we brought from home.

it was three weeks ago. how time really flies.

jakarta from above. jalan jend. sudirman - jalan m.h. thamrin, kuningan, bunderan HI, the buildings. nothing takes better pictures than a canon camera (for me).

Thursday, January 19, 2006

facing to the east, of course, you wouldn't see the sun sets on the horizon, but you get its orangish hue that painted the sky around you.

at the top of the hill sits a sacred temple. its pura stands hidden amongst green trees surrounding the area. the locals called this area baliana according to one of the bali guide books. i called it one of the amazine places to have a romantic dinner at.

with the bornfire lit and the table set, fresh fish and/or other seafood were grilled to the perfection just steps away from where you sit.

with sips of cold 1998 nappa valley chardonnay, gazing the sky seeing millions of stars and falling stars, i wouldn't want the evening to be over with.

a window with a view. this resort differs from the one i stayed the first night. facing the lombok strait in the eastern part of bali in karangasem residence, it has one of the most beautiful panorama i've ever seen in bali.

someone i used to date with told her sister that i always talked about beautiful honeymoon sites and honeymooning.

how couldn't i?

one thing that i would never pass up when visiting bali was its outdoor shower. i love and love very much to shower outdoor. it felt like my body blended with the nature air. you can literally feel the touch of the outdoor air, the soft wind carressing your skin and the feeling was beyond words.

an hour before i have to go to the airport, i took a chance to shower for the last time. it was raining hard and i felt like a boy playing in the rain. the cold rain fall blended with the warm shower made me experienced something i've never had before.

once you tried it, the feeling is beyond words.

this was supposed to be my honeymoon villa. a US$1,000 a night pool villa with all amenities you need just a phone call away.

rose petals on the bed, fruit arrangement on the table. it was so nice and so romantic the first time i stepped into this villa.

in the evening, the attendants would turn down the bed, put chocolates on the bed, and drawn the mosquito net around and the first night, it was the first time i slept on the bed with the net around me. a mental picture then came in -- imagine you made love with someone you love during your honeymoon with candlelights flickering outside the net. wasn't it romantic? i always thought it was so romantic making love on the bed with mosquito net around you.

then, a big thunder awaken my imagination. darn it!

a romantic dream became a horror one! suddenly, i remembered watching Ju On the horror movie. there was one scene when a scarry head poked through the net!

it was downpouring outside and i was alone inside the big pool villa.

i felt suffocated.

and, there went my supposed to be a romantic evening inside a $1,000 honeymoon villa.

luckily, it was for free.

it was the first time i flew with lion air and surprisingly enough for me, it was a nice one. yes, the seats were a little bit cramped compare to the ones garuda's have, but it was on time and a very smooth landing i had.

it was pitty for garuda. as the flag carrier of this nation and having an extensive frequency flying between jakarta and denpasar, garuda is not reliable at all in terms of punctuality.

i've experienced several long delays and cancellations flying with garuda to/from bali and it seemed that the carrier never tried to improve itself.

having flown with lion air, certainly, i don't have problem flying with them again. a glass of water served on board for 1.5 hours flight? no worries.

from wherever point you see bali, whether it's on the ground or from above, you can see the beauty of the island. approaching the ngurah rai airport from the western side of bali, the green land with padi fields on the ground and mount agung standing in the background await you.

Monday, January 16, 2006

i was literally in awe when the resort took me to yet another private beach in the karangasem area. a romantic dinner was set with the background of stone cliff and thunderstorms afar. you can see dark clouds lingered in the horizone pouring rains to the sea.

the darker the lights the beautiful the scenery was. you can see million of stars above, the lights from the ships sailed across to padang bai, listened to the sound of waves crashed just in front of you.

there was no single word could describe what i experienced in this place. period.

the resort called it a sunrise breakfast by the bale. i called it -- wow! you can buy better breakfast than the one i had this morning (though it was a good one!), but the surrounding atmosphere, the privacy and the panorama were all just priceless.

i've been to many beautiful resorts locally and regionally, never had i have a relaxing breakfast like the one this resort offered me.

BALI - you cannot not to love this island. i've been there so many times during the year, yet everytime i visited -- there was always be new things to discover.

i couldn't ask for more beautiful private beach than the one i experienced during the weekend. the white sand beach is still pristine and far from public reach. some said, several world celebrities enjoyed this beach so much and i was one of the fortunates to be able to jump up and down and do whatever i please to do here.

BALI - a never ending beauty.

a good friend emailed me to wish me a happy new year and asked me what my new year's resolutions are. on the eve of a new year i told myself that i want to write and publish a book and visit bhutan in 2006.

i love to walk in soft drizzle during the winter time when trees seemed to play their own shadow shows. walking slowly at dusk, i inhaled the fresh air slowly to enjoy the smell of the wet ground.

this picture reminded me of my years in the states in the city i loved -- and the memory i left behind.

when i left the city of snow almost three years ago, i was afraid not to be able to feel and touch the snow again. but, life brought me back to be in the season i love the most - winter.

just believe in yourself.

after asakusa temple, otosan took me to see the last day of millenario near tokyo station - a row of beautiful and colorful lights adopted from the grand time of the tsar (not really sure). it was really beautiful.

i was so used to plaza light in kansas city, but this millenario thing was different than the one in plaza. it was so grand, so -- beautiful! simply beautifu! no other words can describe it.

you walked slowly beneath these rows of colorful lights and you would never forget the experience with this millenario lights.

it was very cold that day in tokyo. but, people were all coming to celebrate new year's eve in this asakusa temple. some people gathered around the couldron hot with burning fire from the good luck papers they burnt. some were just walking towards the main building to give donations or just simply threw coins for personal wishes.

i went to asakusa temple on the 31st december where it was packed. people were all went to the shrines before or during the new year to ask the blessings for the new year.

asakusa temple is one of the biggest and the oldest temple in japan. one of the most important tourist attractions also where on the way to the temple in its narrow passage, you can find lots of the souveniers vendors in both sides of the narrow lane.

it was an experience of a lifetime to be able to witness one of the japanese traditions during the new year's time. and, like what the japanese did, i threw coins to make wishes, washed my face with pure water from the temple and burn my wishes papers there, too.

otosan bought me a cup of hot sake to warm my body on the way back. it was just a memorable new year's eve.

when i saw this stacks of socks at UniQlo, i could not - not to grab my camera and took several shots of them. i really didn't care if the security guard would tell me not to take pictures inside its store. if he did so -- i would simply tell him that i am a tourist which he probably wouldn't believe it either until he tried to see my passport.

here, you can get all kinds of color of socks and i love their shades of colors.

Friday, January 13, 2006

the tokyo trip writings has to wait for a while. a week after i landed in jakarta, a weekend assignment in bali awaits me.

when i told a friend about my assignment, she was stunned and replied, i don't understand, you just got in from a two-week trip in japan last week and now you are flying to bali? for just a weekend? then how could i find you a girlfriend if you travel alot?

this is just the beginning of the year and lots of invitation to visit both locally and abroad have already waited for me.

i am asking myself - is this job do me any good?

i just want to settle down.

on the way to tokyo tower, i walked pass a shrine where in its garden lie a shrine for the unborn child - aborted or miscarriaged.

but what amazed me looking through these carved children was some were still being taking care of - meaning their parents still visit them with flowers and toys like burials.

they are after all a burial.

we called it hello kity, but the japanese called this cat icon -- kity chan, and she is big in japan. almost everywhere you see in japan, kity chan dominates the cute things sell in this country. from a small figurine with diamonds that sells million of yen, a simple plastic cup, cookies and even these bottled green tea.

when you adore kity chan, i warn you not to go to japan or you will be flat broke.

i do not even care with hello kity. but my opinion changed completely after spending two weeks in her original country.

she is soooo cute.

and, japanese people like cute things.
they said tokyo is the most expensive city in the world. that is so true for several things and not for the other things.

a combo big mac meal in jakarta costs you around Rp24,000. in tokyo, the same big mac with fries and medium coke will cost you 560 yen.

560 yen times Rp85 will get you the total of Rp47,600

so, the same meal will cost you double in tokyo.

Kentucky Fried Chicken is another example. it's one of the most expensive joint in japan. my sis told me that she's been living in japan for six years and never bought any single fried chicken in KFC. it's cheaper to fry the chicken herself.

there are alot and i mean, a lot of used bookstore in japan. one of the biggest one called book off is in harajuku. i visited it and got really frustrated. how couldn't i get so frustrated? they were all in japanese! and, i didn't even understand one single kanji or hiragana word!

so, next thing in knew, i was in x-rated books section. no japanese language to learn and to understand, right?

Thursday, January 12, 2006

one morning, i went to tokyo taking the JR train from ushiku. i kinda refused to bring any language tool with me meaning no japanese-english dictionary and no conversational help book. if i got lost then i needed to try to survive myself.

boy, have i got what i wished for!? yes. i got lost badly. first of all, i bought a wrong train ticket for a wrong train at the wrong time. luckily, it was the right direction -- tokyo.

japan has a very extensive and one of the most modern train system in the world and its people rely solely on that transportation system.

with a little japanese and a limited comprehension of the language, i bought a regular JR train ticket to tokyo which i stepped on the wrong track. instead to a regular track, i went to the hitachi express line -- a slower version of the well known shinkansen.

well of course, when the condector checked my ticket, he was kinda surprised. what in the world is this guy doing here in hitachi express? and, he said something to me which i replied -- excuse me? i'm sorry -- it turned out that he was telling me that i was in a wrong train and i needed to pay the difference from the regular ticket. oh well, it wasn't cheap.

when i got into ueno station, it was full of people and i was kinda lost in the middle and walked to where people walking. wrong! i should have stopped and studied the sign.

my destination was ikebukuro where from ueno was just five stations away to the northeast -- about 20 minutes max. instead, i took a yamanote line to the south circling the megapolitan tokyo at the fullest curve and took me about one hour twenty minutes to reach where i should have been sixty minutes before.

well, it was a blessing in disguise, it turned out. i took lots of human interest pictures during the ride around tokyo. saw many people young and old, pretty office ladies, salary men with long coats, jackets and ties.

it was a nice train ride after all.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

i took almost 1,500 shots during my two weeks in ushiku, tsukuba, tokyo, and ryugasaki. i took all kinds of objects i felt i wanted to capture.

and for right now, my writing is to be continued.
i stayed in the city of ushiku near tsukuba in ibaraki prefecture. it was the city where my sister lives with her husband and her son.

a nice city and a very very very clean one.

i thought singapore is a clean city state but japan beats singapore in a heart beat.

i feel safe walking in the evening everywhere in ushiku or tokyo - it's one of the safest countries in the world.

its people are so kind and, my God, they really bow to you to say thank you and appreciation.

when you visit a department store, there are people standing inside the entrance just to greet the customers and bow to them. that was what they did all day -- saying the welcoming words over and over to the walk-in customers and bowing to them each time.

people were all just ignoring them and would not bow back, but what amazed me so much was their intensity and sincerely to please the customers.

try it in jakarta -- you would see a frowned face by noon time
and, of course, when otosan asked me what do i want for lunch, there was nothing i really wanted except sushi.

sushi and sashimi are two of my favorite food and there is nothing compare eating sushi and sashimi right in their original country.

for those who love sushi, this is how as tuna sushi look like in a sushi restaurant in japan. the cut is thicker than the one in sushi tei and appearently longer.

i ate alot. we ate alot.

plates upon plates of sushi. tako, meguro, fat tuna, you name it and that made me full and satisfied. it was the first and last time we ate in a sushi restaurant during my stay. but, the impression and the experiment lasted longer than that.

the next time i wanted to eat sushi, i went to a grocery store and waited till six in the evening when they would put discounted price for sushi and sashimi. that way, i could eat sushi cheaper compare to the one at a sushi bar.

the taste wasn't that good compare to the picture above, but still, eating sushi and sashimi in their native country -- it was priceless.
the moment i saw my nephew, all of my tiredness was gone. it's been two summers and one winter ago since the last time i saw him. and -- he grew very tall -- taller than a 3-year old kid his age.

his reddish cheeks were so adorable and when i saw him i asked whether he still remembers me from the last time we saw each other in jakarta --
do you still remember me? asked me. yes, you are oom iman! he answered while hugging me.

he speaks english fluently with american accent in it. as for his japanese? he understands when people around him converse in japanese, but then, he answers them in english and little japanese.

we bonded together quickly as i was becoming his playing buddy.

my first task with him?

take him peeing at the rest room shortly after i met him.

oh my, i've never done that in my life. yes, he knew how to pee himself, but then, i needed to literally do more than just standing behind him and i've never seen a penis that small - laughing. thank God, it was just peeing not taking the number two. i just wasn't ready for the other one.

meeting my sister and my nephew started my two weeks vacation in japan. a never forgotten one.

it took me seven hours passing above bandar seri begawan and manila before eventually entering japan air space. since it was an overnight flight, dinner was not served at all. luckily, a flight attendant gave me a warm english muffin to fill my empty stomach before sleepiness took me to a dreamless land two and a half hours after the plane took off.

it wasn't a good rest after all.

a passenger snored loudly and a baby cried for what it seemed - hours.

but then, before i knew it, the plane started to descent and there it was -- the land of the rising sun.

after flying above the sea all the way, this picture depicted the first time i saw a land mass before arriving at narita airport in a cold christmas morning.

i spent my christmas eve alone at the citibank lounge in soekarno-hatta airport waiting for my flight to take me to japan. in my loneliness, i questioned myself about this trip. never in my life have i splurged something expensive for myself. it was like happiness has a price.

but, i've been working for two years without any vacations. and, i've been through something that made me so exhausted mentally and physically. a vacation was what i needed. moreover, i've been saving enough for two years to enjoy myself a short winter vacation.

five minutes before christmas day, a plane departed for narita. sitting in front of the cabin, i wished myself a very merry christmas. i knew, i wanted to enjoy my long deserved vacation.

happiness -- it's all in the mind.