Relief at hand

Drink vendors along busy Jl. Gatot Subroto await the call to prayer, hoping for a spike in business when the daily Ramadhan fast ends. Lots of people get stuck in Jakarta’s legendary traffic on the way home from the office at sunset.


Hostel cat

I had to stay an extra day in Singapore because my visa wasn’t ready, so I moved to a dorm room in a hostel. The front desk staff was very laid back.

Can hostel cats read? The evidence on an upstairs door is provocative but inconclusive.

Junk food of the week: Curry puff

It pains me to characterize the curry puff as junk food, when in fact it is the greatest snack ever invented, representing the culmination of thousands of years of snack research. But curry puffs are deep-fried, and fair is fair.

The curry puff is sold all over Singapore, in places ranging from roadside stalls to upscale bakeries. The dough can be a simple flour-and-butter crust or a fancier puff pastry. The one pictured below is a humble but especially tasty version from a food stall (the Tip Top stall at Ang Mo Kio, if you’re wondering).

Inside are chunks of chicken, potato and hard-boiled egg, bound with a thick, non-leaky curry sauce. The sauce is usually not very incendiary; the emphasis is on earthier spices like cumin and cloves.

Curry puffs are substantial; one puff makes for a quick, cheap lunch. A good one is not too buttery and not too oily, and has a complex curry flavor. Luckily a chain of Singapore pufferies has opened some stalls here in Jakarta, so I don’t have to take an international flight to get my fix.

Island getaway

We had some stuff to do in Singapore, so we decided to take a little extra time and make a trip of it. Chad convinced me to go out to a lovely little island just off the mainland, called Ubin.

Bikes, too, come in “regular” and “good” versions

It takes about ten minutes to get to Ubin on a motorboat, and then you rent a bike. There’s a whole network of paved and dirt roads to ride on, and plenty of places to buy cold drinks. You’ll need those, because the island is as hot and humid as a greenhouse.

Then you can park the bike, stroll around a nature preserve, and climb a tower to look out over the rain forest.

A boardwalk brings you along mangrove forests and then out to the beach.

It’s really a lovely place, and a perfect antidote to the intense urban-ness of Jakarta. I’ve been a little lukewarm on Singapore in the past, because it’s mainly marketed as a shopping destination, but Ubin is great – I’d go back anytime, and I hope we will soon.

Ferris wheel on wheels

We saw this while sitting in a taxi in traffic: a four-seat Ferris wheel mounted on a platform attached to a bicycle. It’s a more highly-evolved version of the kiddie cart I blogged about last month. Could anything be cooler? Unfortunately we only had time to shoot this one blurry photo as we went by.

Later that we realized we should have jumped out and asked the guy for his business card. I’d love to rent this thing and put it out on our street for half a day.