Friday, April 19, 2019

An Expat’s Guide to One Day in Singapore

ne of the most difficult part of my experience being an expat was processing or renewing the work visa. International schools in Indonesia only trust agencies in Singapore so that means going on a two-hour flight. During my stay in Jakarta as an expat teacher, I flew to Singapore about ten times for varied reasons. The first time of course was the most challenging one. 

Singapore is a first world country in Asia. Through the years, it has maintained its reputation as the best airport in the world. It was a bit intimidating the first time I stepped on the airport because it’s so huge. The title of being the best in the world is not without merit though, I remember an employee approaching me and guiding me everywhere that I wanted to go. She explained that there were instances when passengers missed their flights because they could not find their way so there are employees like her to offer help. 

So, what can you do in one day in Singapore? In most of my travels in Singapore just for the sole purpose of processing visa, I was there for one day only. Thankfully, the transportation service in the country is top in the world so you have enough time to go to different places in just one day. Generally speaking, taxi services are way better in Singapore than other countries but it’s too expensive. The first time I rode a taxi, I paid almost 26 dollars from the airport to the location of the agency! I did not know that you could pay 10 dollars for an EZ link tourist pass for one day. The best way to get around in Singapore is via its MRT subway system. It is very efficient, clean and affordable. The underground network has lines that stretch across the entire city. MRT also operates bus routes that can get you just about anywhere on the island.

Just a reminder though, Singapore is considered to be one of the most expensive city in the world to live in. Things are not cheap but it’s all worth it. It is bursting to the seams with impressive attractions (as seen in the movie- Crazy Rich Asians). Here are the top places that you can visit in just one day:

1. The Merlion at Marina Bay Sands and Singapore Flyer- This is the city’s symbol and gives you such a beautiful panoramic view of everything beautiful in Singapore including the 5.5 billion Marina Bay Sands complex. It is the focal point of the bay and it is definitely not a cheap place to stay gauging from its worth. Even if you won’t be able to watch its spectacular light show at 8:00 P.M., it is still worth visiting.

2. Chinatown- this place is known for gastronomic delights but I used to go there not to indulge in Chinese cuisines but to shop. They have varied selection of clothes and shoes. In fact, I still have a pair that I was able to bring here in the U.S. and I still wear up to this day.

3. Gardens by the Bay- This is a huge, futuristic park in the bay area of Singapore. Again, the movie Crazy Rich Asians showed this in many scenes. There are hundreds of trees and plants and the place also offers an impressive skywalk over the gardens.

4. Orchard Road- If you love shopping, this is the place to go. It is the epicenter of shopping and similar to Oxford Street or Hong Kong’s Nathan Road. If you are a Filipino, this is where you will find the best mall for authentic Filipino products- Lucky Plaza. Jollibee- known to be the best of the Philippines is located in this mall and draws both foreigners and Filipinos.

5. Changi Airport- If you are scared of missing your flight, staying in the airport is a treat in itself. Being the best in the world, it offers various activities that would keep you occupied the whole day. It has world class shopping, free computer used, pools, garden, and other amazing features that no other airports offer. 

Singapore is a prime location for tourist activities. One day is not enough to experience its beauty. 

“Don’t listen to what they say. Go see.” 

Singapore, an island city-state off southern Malaysia, is a global financial center with a tropical climate and multicultural population. The city is bursting in seams with different attractions and boosts the best airport in the world.

Monday, April 08, 2019

Fly to Makassar and Spice Your Life with Picturesque Sceneries and Distinct Gastronomic Delight

My experience as an expat in Jakarta, Indonesia was filled with nostalgic memories beyond the confines of the classrooms. I was blessed to indulge myself in various travels that helped me to totally immersed to the country’s culture and traditions. Conversely, it also opened the opportunity for me to taste the best gastronomic delights that Indonesia is famously known for. Flying to Makassar was one of the best travels that I had wandering in the quaint city and delicious cuisines. 

End of the school year means very stressful days of processing papers of the students so the travel came as a way to alleviate it. The trip was a generous gift from the parent of one of our students. Our student’s mom booked our flights and the hotel where we stayed. Her family also ensured that we got to visit all the tourist spots that Makassar's known for. The airport was really impressive and could compete with the most known tourist destination- Bali.

We stayed in a new hotel located right in the city and we have beautiful view from our bedroom. I remember waking up in the morning and just looking down at the city. 

Makassar is a maelstrom of diverse ethnic group. It is the largest city in eastern Indonesia and the capital city of South Sulawesi. Remnants of the Dutch colonization was evident with the historical sites all over the city. There’s the 17th Century Fort Rotterdam where you would find Museum Negeri La Galigo. It was one of the first places that we visited. As expected, it was full of beautiful stories dating back the time of Dutch colonization.

Our trip was a lavish decadent with plethora of culinary treats. My student’s mom made sure that in every meal, she introduced us to at least one famous dish in Indonesia.

The feast did not end with filling our bellies, there were also very relaxing walks along the boardwalk waterfront, architectural landmarks, and a trip to an island.

The island hopping was my favourite. We spent the whole day lazing at the white sand beach, snorkelling, and again pampering ourselves with delicious foods. The sand was so fine but the water was a bit scary when one of the divers emerged with bloody foot. He stepped on one of the sharp corals while swimming. My student’s mom made rented one of the floppy beach slippers so we could swim without worrying.

Another part of the trip that I truly deemed unforgettable was the visit to Bantimurung Park with meandering river that feeds the majestic waterfall. Beautiful hordes of colourful butterflies surrounded us while listening to the sound of cascading waterfalls. The park also offers the 200-old caves in the entire Bantimurung Karst system. You could also go on hiking. The park has an entrance fee and foreigners need to pay more.

Makassar was absolutely the authentic poetic definition of nature. There were no words needed because its picturesque sceneries elucidated the rhythm itself. We also enjoyed the magical sunrise and sunset. It was so beautiful and meaningful. 

When we had our last meal in one of the best restaurants, it was a feast of wide array of cuisines that are the best I have ever had. 

More than the experience, I was at awe with the generosity that was shown to us during our travel. Indonesians are the kindest people I have ever known. In every place we visited, I was reminded why moving as an expat there was the best decision I have ever done in my whole life. Leaving Makassar was sad but then, it gave me special memories to reminisce in a lifetime. 

Makassar, also known as Ujung Padang, is a port city on eastern Indonesia’s Sulawesi island. Inside its 17th-century Dutch colonial Fort Rotterdam is the Museum Negeri La Galigo, housing local exhibits. A promenade along Losari Beach is known for its seafood restaurants. Traditional pinisi sailing ships pack the harbor of Pelabuhan Paotere. Offshore, snorkeling is possible on the coral reefs of Samalona Island. -Source: Wikipedia

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” – Anthony Bourdain

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

11 Best Malls to Visit in Jakarta, Indonesia

As an expat for almost four years in Jakarta, Indonesia, my best form of relaxation was shopping. There’s no better place to do this than in Jakarta since the city is a home to more than 100 malls.

In my last year of teaching, my apartment was in the 6th floor of an apartment complex which was located right at the back of Baywalk mall. Five minutes of walking brings me to many restaurants and shops. As a matter of fact, I barely prepared my food when I was there since going to the mall was more convenient.

I am not even kidding, I have different malls for variety of purposes. If you are in the city of Jakarta for a limited period of time, this list might come in handy.


This is conveniently located about 20-30 minutes from the house where I first lived. It has all the luxury brands that you could think of- LV, Chanel, Coach, Gucci and many others. This mall is special because I used to dine here with my former school director.


This is located near Senayan City and is overlooking the tranquil Senayan Golf Course. It has many of the known brands both local and international. There’s also an Asian dish and an amazing donut that I really love at the Food Court.


This is probably my favorite mall and the most visited one. It has about 400 specialized stores located in its seven-story building. It has also residential buildings with access to the main lobby of the mall. I love looking for the best deals here because they practically have everything at affordable price.


This is a very special mall because I have done a lot of shopping with David there. It is a huge shopping complex located in affluent Pondok Indah. It is referred by its acronym, “PIM”. It is comprised of three large malls- PIM1, PIM2 and the newer Street Gallery interconnected via two elevated multi-storey pedestrian walkways.


I did not do much shopping there but my favorite restaurants are located in this mall. Just like any other malls, it has all the famous International brands of shops and apparels.

This is one of my favorites. It has the largest Sogo in Indonesia and the second largest cinema blitzmegaplex which has 10 auditoriums. Central Park also presents the largest Gramedia Bookstore. Most of my visits in this mall were spent dining with my former co-teachers who live in the residential complex. 


This is one of the newest malls in Jakarta. The last months of my stay in Indonesia was actually spent a lot there because they offer free ride from the apartment where I used to live. It’s more convenient and it also so near and there are many restaurants that I really love.

This is another mall which has a special place in my heart. David and I were dining there when it suddenly hit us that he was about to go back in the United States. We ended up in tears and people were staring at us. Whenever I go there, I used to see a lot of foreigners which could be attributed to the fact that the mall offers many known International brands.


Baywalk is the mall that is located right at the back of the apartment where I used to live on my last year in Jakarta. The location is not only convenient but it has the best Seafood restaurant. The restaurant has all the type of seafood that you could think of. You choose the live ones from the aquariums and decide how do you want them to be cooked. You couldn’t ask more for a fresher food!


If you want to shop for affordable apparels, this is the place to go. There are so many shops to choose from and though they are cheap, the quality is actually good.


This was the first mall that I have ever visited. It is about five minutes from the first apartment where I lived when I arrived in Jakarta. The mall has many beautiful memories because that’s where my friends and I used to spend a lot of time shopping and dining.

When I think of Jakarta, it is not just the malls that I remember. An array of memories always come to mind. My husband and I had our wedding there and we left so many good friends behind.

As always I am reminded, “Nothing is ever really lost to us as long as we remember it.”

As an expat for almost four years in Jakarta, Indonesia, my best form of relaxation was shopping. There’s no better place to do this than in Jakarta since the city is a home to more than 100 malls.

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