Food, People, Personal, Travel

Visited Amber

Another uniquely-themed restaurant has just opened in South of Jakarta. Amber is located at No. 61 Jalan Senopati Raya and has a different atmosphere that many other restaurants in that area.  Now that there area so many restaurants in town competition is getting serious. Restauranteurs have to be creative and innovative, as people coming to restaurants look for both great food and a good atmosphere.  And, with Jakarta’s traffic many people would rather spend time in a nice restaurant rather than face heavy traffic going home in rush hours.

Jo (from ajourneybespoke; http://www.ajourneybespoke.com) and I became curious when we saw the lovely facade of the building, so we popped in for a lunch at Amber. As soon as we opened the door a friendly staff member greeted us and asked whether we would like to go for a main course or only dessert. The first floor turned out to be their desert lounge – definitely heaven for those with a sweet tooth. The lounge is designed in a french style with elegant and softly coloured furniture. There are so many varieties of beautiful cakes, truffles and macaroons, and specialty teas too.  A perfect place for afternoon tea with your girl-friends. The second floor is called the library room.  The books on the shelves, wooden floors and comfy chairs really make this place look and feel like a small library.  Although the books were acquired for display, I’m sure no one would mind if you wanted to read or look through one.  I recall a restaurant in Sydney I visited that had a library – there you could read and purchase what was displayed.  The third floor is a music lounge – actually located on the roof – but I think that it is only open at night, perhaps because during the day it would be too hot up there.  But definitely a great place for a private party.

After we finished lunch we went downstairs for dessert. Actually we could have asked the staff to bring up our dessert but we preferred to go down and experience sitting at the dessert lounge. It had a very different atmosphere to the library.  We chose to have macaroons; cream cheese (blue) and curry (brown). Curry macaroon may not sound too tempting, especially for those not too keen on curry – but you really must try one. The exotic flavour (masala) will give a little bit of kick to your tongue but I’m sure you’ll find this macaroon rather special and just as unique as Amber itself.

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© Nita Strudwick Photography © Nita Strudwick Photography © Nita Strudwick Photography © Nita Strudwick Photography © Nita Strudwick Photography © Nita Strudwick Photography © Nita Strudwick PhotographyIMG_0472 © Nita Strudwick Photography © Nita Strudwick Photography © Nita Strudwick Photography © Nita Strudwick Photography © Nita Strudwick Photography © Nita Strudwick Photography © Nita Strudwick PhotographyOne of the restaurant in Sydney that have library concept

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People, Personal, Travel

Back to Bali

Whether we are away for a few days, a few weeks or a few months, at the end of a holiday we often feel that it just was not long enough. It’s true that time passes so quickly when you are having fun. I thought that with a week off and nothing to do but relax, I would have more than enough time to write for my blog.  In fact, the days passed before I had even started one story!  But don’t get me wrong, of course it was a blessing to have quality time with my family and to be able to discover some new places.  Here are some places that contributed to us having such a full holiday.

The Villa Prana in Seminyak is simply beautiful. Open space, a beautiful garden and the minimalist design of this place made it seem like a hidden treasure. Although the villas are new, they are in kept in excellent condition and the grounds are very well maintained. I strongly recommend this place to those who want to stay in Seminyak area. It’s in a good location being within walking distance to the better boutiques and restaurants. The friendly staff and the excellent service made our stay so enjoyable. The Prana Spa is really something that you must experience when you stay – as a villa guest we received a 50% discount.  I spent my “me time” having a great three hour treatment. It was one of the best spa sessions I have ever had, and it only cost $56. The Balinese lady who attended to me, Ibu Sudiani, is excellent therapist.   If you like yoga, they offers a yoga package too.

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Karma Kandara beach. Located in Uluwatu area, this place is only a 45 minute drive from Seminyak. The view from the cliff top there is stunning – quite breathtaking.  You can enjoy this beautiful panoramic view while having lunch at the Al Mare restaurant. If you would like to go to the beach there is a charge of roughly $25  (two hundreds and fifty thousand rupiah) but that includes umbrella rental, use of beach towels and a substantial part-payment for your meal. The prices at the beach side restaurant are reasonable. 

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Another heat place for lunch was Sisterfield in Seminyak. I really loved the simplicity of this place and the food is great.  Friends had recommended Sisterfield for breakfast or brunch. The service is very good and the staff are well-trained, friendly and knowledgeable. Definitely this place became an immediate family favourite eating place.© Nita Strudwick Photography © Nita Strudwick Photography © Nita Strudwick Photography

I found the Feather and Find Boutique quite accidentally. The boutique is actually located next to Sisterfield. It is owned by a Swiss lady who has been living in Bali for many years. I liked everything in this shop, especially the dress collection as all were elegantly simple and well made. The collectable trinkets there are all one-of-a-kind.

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Personal, Travel

Amsterdam in our mind

Happy New Year 2015!

So many unforgetable moments in 2014.  And, we had also so many special events to celebrate in Decembers including fifteen years of marriage and our daughter’s fourteen birthday.  So why not celebrate those events and go to a place we had never been to?  We choose to visit Amsterdam before flying on to the UK to spend Christmas with family. When we arrived at Schiphol airport at 6.30 in the morning it was dark, wet and cold. It brought back the memories of my first winter in US (quite some years ago).  A truly nice feeling, though. We stayed at Ambassade hotel which is located in Herengracht and has a stunning view of one of Amsterdam’s canals.  In 2010 the canals joined UNESCO’s world heritage listing. The hotel is located at the city centre and is walking distance to many museums, restaurants and shopping areas. I think the Ambassade hotel was the perfect hotel for us as we were doing what most tourist do: walking and sightseeing.  Visits to the Anne Frank and Van Gogh museums were on our “must do” list for the trip. To me, both were really worth a visit as each was truly captivating. During a wet day we took a canal tour around the city. It was a great week and although it was winter Amsterdam still looked charming and stunning. I’d love to come back and exploring the city some more. My little wish for this year is that three of us will be able to continue to travel and to see how beautiful the world is.

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People, Personal, Travel

From up there

After a few days traveling around Sri Lanka by car between Colombo and Trincomallee in the North East, it was time to take a different way back to Colombo.  We flew back  with Sri Lankan air taxi. The small seaplane was like a giant dragonfly. It only accommodated seven passengers  and a pilot and co-pilot. It took an hour and a half to fly from Batticlao to Colombo. The view from above was simply gorgeous. I was speechless. Truly, this flying experience gave us such an unforgettable experience. I found it very funny during our departure to see that while we were waiting for the plane to arrive many local people gathered to watch us, we even had kids waving at us as if we were a movie stars!

The last hotel we stayed at in Colombo, the Wallawwa boutique hotel, is a charming hotel. The simplicity and natural touches in the interior made the place so welcoming and cozy. The Z Spa is a must to try after a long day trip. I felt so energised after my spa experience. The food and the service at this hotel were really fantastic.  Very highly recommended.   There is no doubt,  we will come back and stay at this hotel again.

Last but not least, we have to commend RedDot Tours.  They did such an amazing job.  Our vacation arrangements were excellent: great hotels, excellent driver, comfortable minivan and everything ran so smoothly. They really made everything so much easy as it was so well organised. Well done RedDot.

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Personal, Travel

The colours of Sri Lanka

These are my favourite photographs from our trip to Sri Lanka. The private walking tour we took in Colombo introduced us to some highlights from a local’s perspective. With a knowledgeable private guide we learned about the city’s architectural history. The company offered half-day or full-day tours, each going at your preferred pace. Although we could not avoid a little hectic traffic, especially on the way to the market, we saw so many interesting things and got to feel the city’s dynamic pulse. I personally like to visit locals’ preferred shops when I travel and I like to know what things are usually sold in local markets. Its always fun to watch the activity in the markets. The colours and the textures of the vegetables and fruits are not just great to photograph but getting to know them adds to my knowledge about the varieties of the local foods available  Visiting Colombo’s historical building was really interesting too, especially the old Grand Oriental hotel building that has been open since World War II and is still quite well maintained.  I never thought that taking a walking tour could be such a great way to get to know so much about a city.

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The view of Colombo harbour© Nita Strudwick Photography © Nita Strudwick Photography© Nita Strudwick Photography © Nita Strudwick Photography © Nita Strudwick Photography© Nita Strudwick Photography © Nita Strudwick Photography © Nita Strudwick Photography © Nita Strudwick Photography © Nita Strudwick Photography © Nita Strudwick Photography © Nita Strudwick Photography© Nita Strudwick Photography © Nita Strudwick Photography© Nita Strudwick Photography © Nita Strudwick Photography © Nita Strudwick Photography

Personal, Travel

The memorable journey in Willpattu, Sri Lanka

I must say, our first holiday trip to Sri Lanka was quite an adventurous journey. It was unforgettable. Especially when we spent three days camping with Leopard Safaris in Willpattu National Park. Willpattu is located in the Northwest of Sri Lanka and borders the Indian Ocean in the west. It is Sri Lanka’s largest National park and is now open to public after years of being closed during the war. It took about 4 hours drive to reach there from Nogombo, the area near Colombo where we stayed for a few days before going to the Park. Frankly speaking, I never anticipated that our planned camping at Willpattu would be the best camping we had ever experienced. So many things to talked about with this place!  I don’t know where to start. But let me begin by describing our tent. As this was a holiday,  comfort was our priority: our tent was big and its queen-size comfortable bed provided us with a great place to rest. Although there was no air conditioning, the breeze carried a welcome chill every night. I had thought that there would be plenty of mosquitos at the camp site but there were none at all.

We called this “glamping” (glamour camping) as the staff  from Leopard Safaris were always on standby if we needed assistance. It was the things that we will never forget that made this holiday great: the food was so amazing. The chef cooked delicious meal every day; breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Sri Lankan curry and Lamb chops that I had for dinner were so good. Although we had no electricity and no internet  we found ourselves enjoying nature’s beauty –  it made me appreciate what life is really all about. One morning when I decided not to join the safari crew to the jungle, I stayed at the campsite to enjoy my peaceful morning with a cup of Sri Lankan tea that the staff brought, I listened the humming birds and smell the fresh morning dew. It was so relaxing. Fantastic.

During the days we spent our time driving through the jungle searching for animals and birds. I expected to see many leopards but unfortunately the only one I saw was sleeping after finishing his meal. Although I wanted to photograph him while awake, we left him while he was still sleeping.  We saw plenty of beautiful Sri Lankan birds – so colourful and gorgeous. Definitely all the great memories will bring us back to Sri Lanka again one day. We thank the Leopard Safari team, especially Pila, who made  our  journey so memorable and delighted. Please check their website http://www.leopardsafaris.com.

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Food, People, Personal, Travel

Bali … Again.

It is a while since these photographs were taken. But I have had no time to write. Fortunately, my passion for photography never fails me – i just need to find time to record my thoughts. I take photographs every single day wether with my camera or my iPhone. I do enjoy capturing small things that catch my attention. I like the phrase by Bill Bryson;  “To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.”  It’s so true. Although we visit here relatively often,  every visit reveals  something different and we always look forward to returning for that reason.

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People, Personal, Travel

Friendship reunion

My friend and her daughter decided to spend two weeks in Indonesia during the winter break in Australia.  So we planned to have a mother & daughters getaway. Since this was her first visit to Indonesia and there was only limited time we decided to explore places that did not require long travel times.  We visited both Yogyakarta and Bali.

My return to the Borobudur temple was not only to show my guests this wonderful site but also to introduce my daughter to the magnificent structures that form the world’s largest Buddhist temple –  one of the masterpieces among the Wonders of the World.  Part of my goal was that this trip would expose Camille to more of her Indonesia culture and heritage knowledge (half of her life has been spent overseas).  When we reached the temple it brought back memories of my first trip there when I was only fourteen. I went with my family plus my eyang kakung (grand father).  He told me the story behind the temples construction. It was amazing story, that i know have shared with my daughter.

Another highlight from this trip was an outdoor buffet dinner facing the magnificent Prambanan temples and watching a Ramayana dance performance. The dancers were in beautiful traditional costumes, and the story was easy to follow – an exquisite performance. Highly recommended. During our last day in Yogya our driver took us around Jalan Prawiro Taman, the area where the palace is located. We saw many VW cars decorated with colourful neon lights – quite a surprise.  It was the first time I had ever seen anything like that there. I never knew that so much was happening in Yogya nowadays. After Yogyakarta we flew to Bali and stayed a few days in a villa in Seminyak. Bali was our last destination before heading back to Jakarta, so we would just stretched out a bit and relaxed. My friend joined yoga class every morning while I swam and enjoyed the start of my lazy day with a breakfast prepared by the vila staff – what a delight!.

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Personal, Travel

Phuket, Thailand

Returning to Phuket was a dream come true. I remember the first time we visited Phuket – ten years ago – it was wonderful. My daughter and I were so excited to be returning. Not so much had changed, the beach was still clean and beautiful – the markets, however, were more crowded. We were joined by two friends from the UK on this trip.  The moms would have ‘our time’ while the two kids had fun together.  This getaway was not at all planned.  Everything we did just depended on how we felt that day.  Some days we simply stayed on the beach all day, swimming like fishes and relaxing on the pool deck at the resort.

The view from our hotel room was simply stunning – we looked out over Patong beach.  The two things that my daughter wished for from this trip were to go to Phi Phi island to swim and to take an elephant ride. Both were so easy to arrange.  We made all our bookings directly from the hotel.  It  only took an hour from Royal Phuket Marina to Phi Phi Island by speedboat – and cost about 2,500 Bath/person, including speedboat, tour guide, lunch, and snorkelling equipment. They also stopped at Pileh Cove and Bamboo Island. The views were simply gorgeous, especially Phi Phi Island.  Needless-to-say, the kids just jumped into water right away. It was crystal clear with a stunning aquamarine colour. I can’t described how beautiful and relaxing the place was. Last but not least, we took a trip to Kata Island for an elephant ride.  It was really enjoyable.  Although it wasn’t my first elephant ride, i was still quite scared.

The hotel we stayed at, Amari Coral Beach Resort, was a totally relaxing place to be. Not just great food but the staff were so professional and friendly. We will definitely return to this hotel.  If you stay there don’t miss the Wednesday night seafood buffet – first class.

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Personal, Travel

A place to remember

It was nice coming back to see this little town again.  Some years ago I worked  for the Hyatt Regency (Yogyakarta) construction project and when the hotel was completed I joined Hyatt for a few years before finally returning to Jakarta. Since then, as far as I remember, I have only been back to the hotel once. Now I’m here again, contemplating those memories of seventeen years ago.

I could not believe that it has been seventeen years. So many changes, some rice field nearby the hotel are disappearing as realtor develop luxury town houses. What a pity. But to me, Yogyakarta is still very much the same: friendly people; traffic crowded with becaks, motorbikes and cyclists. Odd, but I still can smell the fresh air every morning!

The time I had been waiting for for so long to catch up with all those dear friends that I used to work with. It’s brought back great memories.

Here are some photographs of things that caught my attention during my visit.

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