Archive for February, 2010

What to Do When You Find Yourself in Jakarta

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

I spent 4 days in Jakarta before proceeding onwards in my journey through Indonesia towards Yogyakarta to climb Mt. Merapi and check out the Borobudur temple complex.  Jakarta is a massive bustling metropolis that can be somewhat overwhelming.

If you don’t just want to spend time getting lost in Jakarta’s labyrinth (which is usually a great thing to do), and have a few days, here are some worthwhile things to do. 

View of Jakarta from National Monument

View Of Jakarta

Monas: National Monument

One of the central and noticeable landmarks in Jakarta is the Monas National Monument, known in slang terms as “Sokareno’s last erection.”  Located in the center of Merkeda (freedom) Square and park, the 137 meter monument can be scaled by elevator for a very modest fee. The result is a pretty compulsive view of greater Jakarta and the smog that consists.  The view is interesting and helps to get a little orientation for the urban agglomerate. 

Jakarta Mona National Monument

Jakarta Mona National Monument

National Museum

On an aimless stroll around town, inhaling copious amounts of putrid fumes, I stumbled into the National Museum.  Resulting from extreme afternoon heat exhaustion, I decided to make an entrance.  The overall museum is actullay impressive and I would recommend it.  Artifacts from the expanse of the diverse Indonesian archipelago can be found in the museum.  Don’t miss the items varying from Papua penis gourds to ancient jewelry and skulls. 

National Museum in Jakarta Indonesia

Jakarta National Museum

Old Colonial Quarter (Taman Fatahillah)

The old Dutch settlement in Jakarta is a colonial throwback and provides vivid and interesting contrasts.  European buildings are shadowed by homeless sleepers, Gothic punk youth,  guitar freestylers, and the ever annoying tune of the ice cream cart.  Tropical palms, intense heat, and filthy maintenance, drown the Euro looking streets and architecture.  The Cafe Batavia in old town is a worthwhile place to wander and the staff will be friendly even if you don’t purchase anything.  Enter with a full bladder as the bathrooms are beautifully mirrored and uniquely designed. 

Historic Colonial Town Jakarta Indonesia

Historic Colonial Town Jakarta

Historic Town Jakarta Indonesia

Historic Town Jakarta

Food for Thought

At night, side street stalls will literally claim a section of road and string yellow and red canvas around their area to blockade it. Don’t hesitate to dive into delicious ikan bakar (grilled fish with killer sauce), mystery buffets of nasi campur, and other cheffed necessities.  For more information on food selection have a look at 9 mandatory foods to eat in Indonesia

Nasi Padang Food in Jakarta

Nasi Padang Food in Jakarta

Impromptu Bands

Makeshift cover bands and guitarists with 4 stringed guitars will come to you like ocean waves rolling into shore.  Some people sing poorly on purpose so you have to give them something small for them to leave. It’s not a bad idea to have a few 1000 Rupiah notes to get some of the most repugnant musicans to depart.  Other inspiring musicians are actually quite talented and might even deserve an applause.  Whether the music is good or bad, it does make for an interesting dinner or night of entertainment.  

Masjid Istiqlal Mosque

Islam is widespread in Indonesia and shrieks from mosques can be heard throughout Jakarta.  If you show up at the entrance to the world’s third largest mosque, Masjid Istiqlal, someone will be obliged to show you around the premises.  It is free to look, though after a while someone will ask for a donation. 

Masjid Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta

Masjid Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta


The main area for budget accommodation and convenience is located on Jalan Jaksa, in a decent city location.  I stayed on a side foot road right off Jalan Jaksa at the Bloem Steen guest house.  The front veranda garden, sufficient room conditions, and free breakfast with great coffee, make this guest house recommendable. 

Jakarta Main Street 

Note: Bewareof the touts and jokers on Jalan Jaksa who attempt to sway your decisions.  If in doubt, just be friendly and move along. 


In a city of 20 million, with people spanning from close and far out islands, the diversity and expression of Jakarta is enough to look at and then be enticed.  Indonesians are almost always friendly, so don’t fear getting disoriented and finding some ultra random places to hang out! 

-Migration Mark

Zugu Competition: Win Return Flights To Anywhere in the World

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

To promote their newly launched flight comparison website, Cheapflights is running an exciting competition.

What does ‘Zugu’ mean?

The name ‘Zugu’ originates from a real word with a travel related meaning. For a chance to win two return flights to anywhere in the world up to a value of £1500, submit your creative response to the question ‘What does Zugu mean?’.

To help you a bit, Travel Blissful offers you an official clue. Other clues have been hidden on various travel blogs and on itself. You can also search Google for ideas and inspiration.

Blissful Zugu Zugu Competition: Win Return Flights To Anywhere in the World

Submit your entry in writing or video through twitter @zugu_uk with the hastag ‘zugu’ or through their facebook page at Deadline: March 5th.

The competition is open to UK and Irish residents who are above 18 years of age. For more information, see Zugu Competition Terms & Conditions.

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Bookmark my travel consumer guides

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

The ‘ask Mr Rants’ feature has been incredibly popular and in the last couple of months I have published a number of travel consumer guides based on the number of emails that I receive from consumers. I wanted to share a few of those guides with you so you can bookmark for future use.

Bookmark my travel consumer guides

Here are five of the popular guides published.

» Driving abroad advice and car hire tips
» How to protect your holiday
» How to make a travel complaint
» Travel tips for solo travellers
» Skiing holiday tips and ski safety advice

You can rate each guide so I know which ones have to be improved, and of course please leave any suggestions for other consumer’s guides that you would like me to feature. My frequently asked travel questions page includes solutions to a lot of the questions that I receive.

This post was syndicated from the Travel Rants Consumer Blog.

Bookmark my travel consumer guides

Recent Reads: A Quick Stroll Around Dubai, Pakistan Beauty and Goth Loli Girls

Friday, February 26th, 2010

This is part 14 of ‘Recent Reads’ in which I highlight recommended posts in the blogosphere.

burj al arab Recent Reads: A Quick Stroll Around Dubai, Pakistan Beauty and Goth Loli Girls

Burj al Ara © Jeff Vergara

Travel Team Travel Secrets suggests seven great ways to spend a layover.

In a series of three hidden European gems, Mark H of Travel Wonders of the World writes about the mournful piece of stone in Lucerne.

Angela Corrias of Travel Calling takes a quick stroll around Dubai and discovers the biggest shopping centre in the Middle East as well as the Jumeirah complex, where you can find the world famous Burj Al Arab.

On Voyagner, Dan Haneveer shares 11 beautiful images of Pakistan. Ever visited the Hunza Valley, Karachi or the Derawar Fort?

Paul Dow of TravMonkey World Travel recommends footwear for backpacking the world.

And Angela K. Nickerson of The Gypsy’s Guide had Tokyo flashbacks in Sacramento when she met a group of Goth Loli girls.

Possibly related posts:

  1. Recent Reads: Weekending, The Lost Girls & Location Independent Living
  2. Recent Reads: Gran Tourismo, Trendspotting, Carnival Time & 2010 Travel Trends
  3. Recent Reads: Swiss+Tech Utili Key, Stormy Refund Policy & Chicago’s Third Airport

Why I Love Mountains

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

austrian alps Why I Love Mountains

Riding in chair lifts.

snowboarding Why I Love Mountains


skiing Why I Love Mountains

Skiing — preferably off-piste and without a rucksack.

les deux alpes Why I Love Mountains

Les Deux Alpes, France

Beautiful alp views when skiing.

chamonix valley Why I Love Mountains

The day rises in Servoz, a village in the Chamonix valley © Claudia Meyer

Misty mornings in villages surrounded by mountains.

clear view Why I Love Mountains

The top of the Wendelstein mountain in Bavaria, Germany

Mountains in Austria and Germany remind me of Sound of Music.

matterhorn Why I Love Mountains

Matterhorn, Zermatt, Switzerland

You feel humbled by their magnificence.

engelberg Why I Love Mountains

Engelberg, Switzerland

When you’re high enough, you can look down on the clouds.

paragliders Why I Love Mountains


The prospect of paragliding.

snow covered mountains Why I Love Mountains

Snow covered mountains © Claudia Meyer

The combination of mist and snow-covered trees and mountains.

danger Why I Love Mountains

The thrill of skiing past ”Danger’ signs.

Possibly related posts:

  1. Why I Love Winter
  2. Why I Love Skylines
  3. Photo of the Week: New Zealand Trekking

Studying abroad?

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010
If you’re planning to study abroad, you’ve probably got a lot on your mind. There’s a passport and visa to apply for, plane tickets to buy, suitcases to pack, housing to figure out — and that’s all before you even leave the country! Once you get to your destination, you have to worry about budgeting [...]

Cote d’Azur – Life of Luxury

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010
nice coast Cote dAzur   Life of Luxury

The coast of Nice © Lauren Salvitti

Written  by: Iain Miller

The Cote d’Azur, more commonly known in English as the French Riviera makes up the south eastern corner of France’s coastline. While this beautiful stretch of coast became one of the original resort regions in the world, it has always been a destination for travellers from other countries. The ancient Greeks came here to sell their wares to the local people and in the 1700s aristocrats from Britain used the Cote d’Azur as their favourite holiday area. In the 19th century the Russians made it into their summer retreat from St. Petersburg. The 20th century saw famous artists and writers frequently visit, as well as wealthy families from America and elsewhere in Europe. Some now refer to the Cote d’Azur as the “playground of the rich and famous”.

The Cote d’Azur sits on the Mediterranean Sea with the Alps in the background. The name comes from the beautiful azure color of the sea. The entire coastline can be travelled in 3 hours from St. Tropez to the Italian border. Some of the most glamorous beaches in the world are along this stretch of coastline. They tend to be narrow stretches of beach made up more of rock and pebbles than sand bordered by busy streets or highways.

cote dazur Cote dAzur   Life of Luxury

  • St. Tropez – The best beaches of St Tropez villas cover a 3 mile stretch that can be accessed easily by foot from town. Many people prefer the sandy expanses of beach farther from town called Les Salin and Plage de Pampelonne.
  • St. Maxime – The beaches here are on a waterfront that is crammed with tall buildings, apartments, luxury villas and hotels. But it is considered to be a very affordable beach resort ideal for families.
  • Cannes – Most of the beaches of Cannes belong to hotels and restaurants where visitors can rent lounges and umbrellas. There are also public beaches and facilities that rent sailboats. Find bargain hotels in Cannes and… throughout France with Twenga.
  • Antibes – This area boasts 48 beaches that include small inlets and rocky steeply sloped beaches located at the base of cliffs.
  • Nice – These are probably the most well known and popular beaches of the Cote d’Azur. Some run along a public promenade and others are luxurious private beaches that offer restaurants and bars as well as equipment rental for a variety of water sports.

There are a number of wonderful reasons to visit the Cote d’Azur besides the beaches themselves.

Eastern Riviera sites:

monte carlo Cote dAzur   Life of Luxury

Monte Carlo at night

  • Monte Carlo in Monaco may be most famous for its casinos, but it also offers lush tropical gardens, the well known Formula One Monte Carlo Grand Prix, and the Monte Carlo Opera.
  • The entire stretch of the Cote d’Azur is full of excellent art museums like the Musee Picasso in Antibes, the Fondation Maeght in St. Paul, and Musee Matisse in Nice.
le vieux port Cote dAzur   Life of Luxury

Le Vieux Port

  • Nice is known as the “Queen of the Riviera” and is well worth the visit to see its palaces, museums, mansions and extravagant hotels. A path along the sea called Sentier Tirepoil offers spectacular views.

Western Riviera sites:

  • Moustiers St. Marie is an old village that sits at the base of a rocky cliff. A stream runs directly through the middle of the village, dividing it into two halves with a rocky canyon dotted with small waterfalls.
  • The Verdon Gorge is a canyon that may the most beautiful one in all of Europe. Formed by River Verdon, it is 700 meters deep. The area is popular to those who like to hike and rock climb as well as kayak.

No matter your destinations in the Cote d’Azur or the time of year that you travel, you can count on the Mediterranean climate to be perfect for your visit. The summer days are hot and dry and the winters are quite mild.

Possibly related posts:

  1. French Beach Destinations
  2. Saint Tropez, Where Stilettos and Tans Are Always in Vogue!
  3. Photo of the Week: Beach Life in Colombia

Music That Makes Me Happy: La Memoria

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

DePedro – La Memoria

When writing “La Memoria”, Jairo Zavala, the Spanish rocker behind DePedro, was inspired by a trip to Mexico and the injustice and poverty he saw there.

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Photo of the Week: Miami Skyline

Monday, February 22nd, 2010
miami skyline Photo of the Week: Miami Skyline

Miami Skyline © Juan Vasquez

Shot on a drive back from Miami Beach.

Possibly related posts:

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Chinese New Years in Bangkok Yaowarat

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

No shower, check, no house cleaning, check, no bad thoughts or words, check, no hair cut, (haven’t in 15 months) check, engorge on delicious foods, check … WOW, Chinese New Years in Thailand is starting to sound a lot like my daily routine… in fact, I barely have to change anything.

With the Chinese influence in Thailand, being in Bangkok, and my half Chinese American-ism, there was tremendous reason to celebrate 2010 as the year of the Tiger on Feb 14th  and 15th, 2010.

Chinese Temple Yaowarat Chinatown Bangkok

Chinatown Yaowarat in Bangkok

I took the initiative to ask a few of my English students and Thai friends some of the most important aspects and traditions of Chinese New Years in Thailand.  Many said that it is a crucial time to see family and especially visit elderly relatives.

Some Notable Traditions for Thai Chinese New Years:

  • Don’t wash hair/Don’t cut hair- you might wash away anything good for the year
  • No house cleaning- you might clean out the wealth for the year
  • No bad thoughts/ No cursing- will cause you to say nice things for the whole year and nice things will happen to you
  • Wear new and colorful (red) clothes- because you want new things during the year and a fresh start
  • Eat chicken or duck- you should simply eat chicken or duck or maybe fish because it’s delicious and it symbolizes prosperity

One of my students said that every Chinese New Years was a time when he and his entire family would gamble with small amounts of money.  Whoever won, would then be lucky for the rest of the year. Gambling however, was not allowed in his family except on this day.

Another friend mentioned that her family kept the lights on in the house throughout the night.  This tradition symbolizes a want for everything to be bright and clear the entire year.

Hong Bao is the New Years tradition that illuminated the faces of my students the most.  Give (invest) bright colored oranges to older relatives to pay respect, and then hope for a big monetary return.  Hong Bao is the tradition where the job holders or elderly give monetary gifts to the children or non workers of the family in a red Chinese envelope.   From their emotions, some of my students seemed to have done pretty well in the past.  You should normally spend most of the money given within the next few days.

Yaowarat Chinatown in Bangkok

Crowds at Chinese New Years Bangkok

On Sunday the 14th or February, I managed my way to Yaowarat (Bangkok Chinatown) to check out the festivities and more importantly partake of most things I saw.  The raod was shut from motor traffic and a stampede of humans were tip toe-ing and shoving to gain ground with aimless direction.  No one seemed to actually know where they were going, yet everyone was mingling in nonsense.

Snacks in Yaowarat Chinatown Bangkok

Snacks in Yaowarat Chinatown Bangkok

As the everlasting herded crowds were focusing on parades including the Princess, cheering to drumming dragon dances, and shopping at street stalls, my wonderful friends and I nestled into a 2nd floor restaurant to fulfill the final Chinese New Years vow; Delicious Food.

You should normally eat boiled chicken, however, duck, goose, and fish, are also acceptable  for gaining prosperity.    Dim Sum (steamed dumplings) as well as Sala Pao (steamed buns with pork inside) are also poplar menu items to munch.  To my relief Soup Number 5 is not a requirement!

Thai Lemon Snapper blah kah pung manow

Thai Lemon Sizzling Snapper

Our order was traditional Thai with Chinese influences.  The main event was a fashionable steamed Snapper swimming in boiling lemon and chili sauce (plah ka pung neung manow), with a few stunner companions consisting of Thai egg curry with squid (pad pongali plahmuk), oyster omellette on a hot plate (plasawan), stir fried morning glory (pad pak bung), and of course large bowls of steamed rice.

Yaowarat Chinatown restaurant

Peering Off the 2nd Floor at the Restaurant

Beyond satisfied and perspiring waterfalls, it was necessary to challenge the swarms and head back across Bangkok for some rest and relaxation.

-Migration Mark