Seeing Things From Behind A 40 Year Old Lens

“The camera doesn’t matter – the eye does,” says the anonymous, blurred person who speaks only in my hazy memory. This is a quote heard by millions of photographers, possibly in a million, different, often misquoted ways. They all seem to drive a point, however: that the camera is only a tool that is as good as you are able to project your visual ideas and images with.

To test that ubiquitous theory, I recently purchased a 40-year-old lens, after a convincing demonstration from a friend and coworker. This one cost a fraction of what newer lenses charge, thanks to age and time working in my favor. I immediately bought the lens from a second-hand online store, along with a cheap adapter for my Canon 60D (which in itself, is an aging camera, according to every photographer ever).

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The Setup

I had to admire the lens for a while as it came out the box a few days after. Here was a creation that stood the wear and tear of 40 years, through time and space, that landed on my pale, white desk of mine. I will never know the story it went through, or how many hands have grasped and pulled its aging handles, or how beautiful the pictures that were taken by many eyes and clicks of the shutter. These things, it seems, I can only wonder.

So to stop wondering, I decided to test this gizmo of mine on a trip to Bandung, in West Java.

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A visit to a limestone processing factory in Bandung

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Before lifting heavy rocks

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Empty

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On standby, without workers

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A local-favorite. Kue ape

I immediately noticed a few things: how sharp the images were, how different the colors appeared, and how hard the lens was to operate! Here was a photographer, so used to modern marvels such as auto-focus and exposure compensation, receiving a vintage welcome from his own camera. It was a bare-bones experience, having to manually set the aperture and the focus ring every time I had a subject in frame. But it was eye-opening, as it was unfamiliar

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Visiting the night street market

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Look at all those chickens (y’know, that one vine)

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Famous Martabak Andir

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Coincidentally, the man behind the stall has been making Martabak for 40 years

The lens worked wonders in night time, thanks to its wide 1.4 aperture. The images managed to stay crisp as well. It was hard to focus, though, without the automatic function I was so used to having.

And then there was this certain dreamy character to the bokeh, as the blurred edges of the images never seem to stay symmetrical and perfectly round. Yet the depth of the areas that were in focus almost seemed that they can pop out, like a cutout character from a story book. This lens, and its images, are a trippy piece of work.

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A self-portrait that ‘pops’ out (taken by a good friend of mine, Moses – @moosesronaldo)

I felt responsible to show what an old, jaded lens can do, since this is my first lens I bought with my own savings. And it to see how much it has gone through, it’s an honor, in a strange kind of way, to own something that has its own mysterious story.

So, I do think to dismiss a cheap and aging piece of technology would be a tragic story to tell. I think something like this offers a portal to see the peculiarities of imperfect items of yesteryear; a sort of back-to-your-roots experience. With all the new technology coming to our screens and doors in 2018, it would be nice to step back and recall on older things that we haven’t explored. Here’s me just starting out into that journey, and with good intentions, I ask that you come along too.

Jeloy. (@je.loy)

 

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What to Do If You Could Spend A Day in Bandung.

Having a busy schedule is beneficial to keep your mind occupied with positive things, but at the same time if you don’t know how to pause, you’re putting your soul – or probably your insanity – at risk. So, balance is the key.

A recharging weekend is what most big city people often need to balance their life. What’s your ideal “recharging weekend”? If you ask me, sometimes a day of hanging out with friends is all I need. But there are also times when I just can’t resist the urge to have a spontaneous trip out of the city. Just like what I did last week: a spontaneous solo trip to some of the cities in East Java. But, that’s for another post.

As of this week, I’ll share with you one of the similar experiences I had few months ago. Busy schedules and never ending meetings came rapidly into my calendar, I panicked and spontaneously decided to have a short getaway out of the city. In the name of finding new inspiration to keep my creative brain sharp, I booked a train ticket to Bandung and spent a day in that city, bringing only my camera and laptop.

First destination was one of my favorite breakfast spots in Bandung, Bakmi Rica Jl. Kejaksaan. Sometimes I pray that they would open an outlet here in Jakarta. My favorite is their Yamin Noodle with boiled dumplings, meatballs, and fried meatballs! Right in front of this tiny restaurant, there has always been a Durian Ice Cream truck ready to give you a sinful dessert.

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Totally one of the reasons to always go back to Bandung.

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Jl. Kejaksaan No.7 Braga, Sumur Bandung.

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One of the desserts that I could never say no to.

Since this restaurant is located right at the heart of Braga, you can loosen up the bloated tummy (as a result of a bowl of mouthwatering noodle) by strolling around Braga on foot  and capture some of Bandung’s interesting faces and activities.

Unfortunately, Bandung was in a bit of a cloudy mood when I visited her. In order to avoid the heavy rain, which was about to come, I immediately ordered an Uber ride to get me to my next destination, Eugene The Goat.

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It’s an al fresco type coffee shop that offers a romantic view of Bandung, particularly during the cloudy days. I got what I came for, a complete solitude, accompanied only by a cup of Flat White. Several strangers with Bandung typical street-style outfit  were busy with their own stuff. A comforting breeze greeted my cheeks, reminded me to be grateful to have a precious time such as this. It was only a half day in Bandung, and I already got what I came for.

During the much needed me-time at Eugene, one of my Instagram buddy, Rainoswald, texted me saying that he’s coming. Friendship is easily built through social media right now, although the two people might have never even met. Hail to the millennial generation! Check out his instagram feeds, as he is famous for some of his eclectic and aesthetic feeds.

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Rainoswald with his signature quirky pose.

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The perks of having a friend around is of course the opportunity to have some ootd shots.

Mimiti Coffee was next. After waving goodbye to Rainoswald, I moved to this new coffee shop that has been quite a talk in Instagram. A very urban hypebeat-ish ambience lingers around this particular coffee shops as it is dominated with black window frames, concrete grey walls, large al fresco area, plus a display of premium street brands for sale.

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Jalan Karangsari Nomor 1 Pasteur, Sukajadi ,Bandung.

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I didn’t use my camera and cell phone (except to order Uber and Gojek lol) that much as I was really in a dire need of detoxing all the hustles I gained in Jakarta. An authentic moment of living without the urge to capture everything I stumble upon was what I aimed to have. Those three places were the only ones I explored from behind the lens. However, there are also some other places that I visited in Bandung that you can surely put in your list.

  1. Po Ka Tiam -at Jalan Pasir Kaliki No. 64, a breakfast/brunch spot that serves dim sum (try their Salted Egg Yolk Bun).
  2. Two Cents – Jalan Cimanuk No. 2, their maincourses and desserts are also to die for!
  3. Martabak Asan – Jalan Kebon Kawung No. 8, it’s seriously the KILLER Martabak Tipker that I’ve ever tasted. You can order this one by Gojek. I was guilty of finishing a whole box of their chococheese and peanut butter flavors.
  4. Nasi Goreng Babi Cuka at Rumah Makan Legoh – Jalan Sultan Agung No.9, this one is also “Gojek-able”.
  5. Bola Ubi near Jalan Sudirman Bandung, it’s only a walking distance from the hip culinary spot that offers you plenty of tasty food trucks and street sides kinda meals.
  6. NuArt Sculpture Park. It’s a great place to unwind and recharge your creativity as this place offers a three-storeys gallery, a huge backyard displaying some even more huge installations, and a nice al fresco-type coffee shop to sit and relax.

Hopefully this list come as great suggestion for you who are about to visit Bandung anytime soon. Please do share your favorite culinary spots in Bandung by leaving a comment below.

 

Write to you later,

HG. (@gersonhenry)

Cirebon: From Historical Sites to Family Park

One of the most challenging part in writing is to write the opening sentence. The beginning is always the toughest to figure out. Well, at least for me. Even after being a professional writer for a decade now, I still occasionally found myself spending hours staring at the empty white page on my laptop screen.

Wait a minute, a decade? Does time really fly that fast? Apparently, it does. One minute you’re here, the next minute you’re there. Unaware, you have traveled through moments built by a day to day circumstances. And, as a melancholic guy who tends to get clingy over precious memories or unimportant details, I have always loved to treasure the moments I had in the past.

In fact, that is one of the reasons I asked DR to partner up with me and started this blog: because I simply didn’t want all the memories I gained from every single travel experience I had last year vaporized into thin air. I wanted to savor it.

Anyways, I’m not here to write about time or memories. Well, probably later in another blog post. I’m here to savor all the highlights and memories I gained from the Cirebon trip, which kind of surprised me that the trip actually took place exactly a month ago. Again, time does fly really fast, eh?

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Speaking of Cirebon, I had a hard time moving on from the culinary experience that they offered. The moment I heard or read the word Cirebon, my brain would bring forth the pleasure I tasted from the famous Nasi Jamblang, Empal Gentong, Mitang, and the other fellas. It is there in my brain, permanently stuck, along with my first kiss experience.

Okay, enough with the preface. Let’s get down to business.

Keraton Kasepuhan was the first place we explored in Cirebon. According to the local guide, this is the oldest keraton (Sultan’s palace) in Cirebon as it was built in the 1447. The outer walls, as you can see from the photo below, were decorated by ceramics. Some areas are opened for public, while some are closed because the Sultan still lives inside the keraton.

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The front yard.

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Entering the palace.

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Afternoon chill in the pendopo.

After you paid for the entrance ticket and made your way into the keraton, you’ll be greeted by several pendopoAs you walk further you’ll find a white pavilion and a small garden at the center of the keraton. There was also a small museum in the area that displayed hundreds of ancient weapons, furniture, armors and even carriages.

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Keris, one of the ancient weapons.

As DR was busy exploring the museum, I let my feet took me a few steps further into what seemed to be the palace’s backyard. This is one of the favorite parts of traveling for me: a little quality time between me and my camera. The backyard was huge, it’s like a little forest (yeap, not even a garden) inside the palace. Some local kids were there playing kites and getting wet in a small river.

I often used this solitude moment to have a little talk with God and myself. I used it to count all the blessings I have, and to have my perspective towards my dreams and goals refocused. More importantly, to remind myself to never give up in pursuing those dreams.

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A horse made out of tree branches, stood graciously in the backyard.

Ten minutes later, I walked out of the backyard to find DR standing among a lot of other tourists in front of the main pavilion. I was curious because they were all camera ready, like paparazzi who wait for a famous Hollywood star to come out of  a bar. Apparently, the sultan was about to walk out to the mosque for Friday prayer. His guards were all waiting for him in front of the pavilion, they were ready to escort his walk to the mosque.

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The guards

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The Sultan

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Marching to the Mosque

We joined the crowds escorting the respected Sultan to the mosque before we drove to the the next place, Kejawanan Beach. The place was crowded with local tourists due to the long weekend, so we didn’t go the beach. I Googled what’s interesting from this beach, and apparently it’s best to visit Kejawanan at dawn to watch sunrise. In other word, there was not much to see from this beach in the afternoon.

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Golden hour.

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Solitude.

Apparently, deciding not to walk to the far end of the beach had its perks. Another “playground” (the better one, in fact) welcomed us. Not far from the entrance there were plenty of local fisherman’s boats, inviting us on board.

The view took me back to a particular memory lane. When I was in 5th grade, I used to go fishing on the weekend with some of my school friends. One of them had a boat and her parents used to take us with them for fishing. So the moment I saw those boats, the little kid in me came out and wanted to play make believe immediately. Probably, as a pirate, lost explorer, or a treasure hunter.

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Because Titanic had sunk down.

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A little bit closer to the edge.

As soon as we parked our car, we hopped into one of the boats. And just within a few minutes, we found ourselves hopping from one boat to another, climbing up stairs, and taking tons of photos. We got lost in this little world, accompanied by the salty-scented air and beautiful golden hour.

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Just chillin comfortably.

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Little explorers.

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Delete. Delete. Keep. Delete.

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Nope, not the local fishermen.

It was two hours away from sunset when we finally finished exploring all the empty fishermen boats in Kejawanan. Part of me was already wishing for a refreshing cold shower plus a nice power nap at the hotel, while the other part of me wanted to explore more places in this city. The later part won.

Our search in Instagram brought us to this newly opened recreation park, Ade Irma Water Park. Basically, it’s a family park with 18 units cottage, three swimming pools, and one Japanese restaurant built in a huge ship. Disappointingly, the place was very crowded. It was real tough for us to capture a good panoramic photo.

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The dock.

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One of the rented cottage.

The afternoon breeze led us to the end of the dock, which was the emptiest spot in the whole area. You had to pay for another IDR 10,000 to be in the dock. Satisfyingly, the entrance fee was bundled with a free bottle of cold drink. Just exactly what we needed.

The walk on the dock was almost a bit hypnotic, I suddenly found myself at the end of it. DR was already there, sleeping. Snoring, to be exact. I joined him sitting there, watching several jellyfishes swimming underneath the dock, before I decided to also have a quick power nap.

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Getting the much needed power nap.

On the next day, we only managed to explore one historical site of this city. It’s Taman Sari Gua Sunyaragi. Can anyone take a guess what was the original purpose of this place?

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What’s left of the Taman Sari Gua Sunyaragi.

It was actually a 37,5 acres resort slash villa, made in the 1703, for the Sultan’s family. The royal family of Cirebon used to enjoy their weekend and holidays in this place. It was kinda hard to imagine that there used to be princesses running around climbing up and down the stairs from one room to another. We tried to explore the whole area despite of the super hot temperature that made us all sweaty just for the sake of getting good photos for this blog.

Another fact about Gua Sunyaragi is that this resort was originally surrounded by lakes. But, as centuries went by, the lakes had drained and transformed into Cirebon’s main bypass road, buildings and houses.

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Ready to explore the ancient resort.

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The entrance.

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At probably the highest tower of Gua Sunyaragi.

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One of the best selfie spot.

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Pardon the sweat stains. Nothing worth having comes easy.

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Candid shot by @sevencrow.

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Another candid shot by our photographer friend, @sevencrow.

To sum it up, our places exploration was as thrilling as our culinary exploration in Cirebon. However, we only see this as a one-time thing, unlike the culinary part which left us craving for more. If you want to do something different over the weekend, hopefully this kind of exploration would work for you as it had surely worked for us!

Write to you later,

HG. (@gersonhenry)

Batik 101 at Trusmi, Cirebon

My mother loves batik so much. I would say too much. If you see her everyday, you would notice that she wears different batik outfits 5 days a week. She has a different set of batik for work and formal occasions with dozens of different colors. Her eyes would glimmer every time she shops for batik and by the time she’s done shopping, global warming would have ran out of things to melt.

This love for batik isn’t really passed down to me. I don’t blame her, she really tried to buy me tons of batik shirts. I would wear them on formal occasions, but not on a day to day basis.

When I heard that Cirebon is one of the best batik manufacturers, I wasn’t the most excited person in the car. Nevertheless, I was curious to see a batik production site and learn more about its making process. Off we went to Batik Trusmi!

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Located in the heart of Trusmi, villages full of batik artisans lived for years through batik production every day. These men and women, mostly women, had studied the art since they graduated from elementary school. With such dedication and time spent, it is no wonder, Cirebon is also well known for its batik.

After we parked our car on the side of the road, we walked deep into a housing complex for a few minutes. The location was kind of dodgy, without a local’s guidance, we wouldn’t know which place to go to.

There are 2 ways of batik production in Trusmi, by inking with your very hand or by stamping the fabric. Each of them are known as batik tulis and batik cap.

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Batik tulis artisan in action.

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Centingan.

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Washing of the fabric to wash away unused ink.

As easy as it looks, it takes years of practice to get such hand stability. It is totally different than kindergarten coloring activity. Trust me, I tried and failed miserably. My hands were shaking tremendously and the inks spread all over the fabric. I totally gave up after 15 minutes of trying while being laughed at by the local artisans.

As we moved on from places to places, batik is definitely a common sight. It seems that everyone in those villages were producing batik in different scales, home production or even bigger.

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Metal batik stamps on the wall.

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Stamping the fabrics with inks.

Each production houses are able to produce around 60 batik every month. A batik artisan, as skilled as they are, will be able to finish one batik fabric in around a week. The more idealist they are, the longer the process will take. Some of them sees it more as a form of art rather than work. Therefore, it could take them months just to create a perfect batik that suits their idea of perfection.

With that said, these artisans are normal human beings in their daily activities. They talk to us kindly and laughed at my failed inking attempt. More than that, they depend on this activity to support their day to day living. This gave me more reasons to appreciate batik and the people behind its production.

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Drying process.

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Cutting the fabric before the distribution.

You know what they say, perfection takes time. In fact, everything in this world takes time, take these batik artisans for an example. Malcolm Gladwell mentioned in one of his books that it takes 10,000 hours of practice for a person to be an expert at something. How many hours have you spent at something you are pursuing?

I am definitely not in pursuit of batik inking skills, but I am definitely willing to put in work and passion to become an expert at the things I love. Well, it turns out there is a lot to learn from a short visit to Batik Trusmi!

Keep exploring.

DR (@demasryan).

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Cirebon: Culinary Experience at its Best!

 After 8 hours (yeap, 8 hours, that’s like traveling to Sydney by plane) on the road, thanks to the bad traffic, we finally arrived in Cirebon. I still remember that everyone was starting to get cranky. Who wouldn’t? We were on a mission of escaping Jakarta with its unbearable traffic only to find ourselves stuck in a worse traffic. Like, seriously? The only food we had during that long 8 hours were Pringles and Lays.

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So, as soon as we exited the new highway that connects Jakarta and Cirebon, Lukas, our friend, who knows Cirebon inside out and who kindly offered himself to drive us around in Cirebon, took us to try Nasi Lengko.

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Lukas had warned us that we might not gonna like Nasi Lengko. According to him, plenty of “Jakartans” don’t find this particular food as delicious and tasty as the other signature cuisines in Cirebon. So it’s really okay if we didn’t want to give it a try, considering that we were really hungry at that time it might be wise for us to just feed ourselves with something that is more guaranteed.

We convinced Lukas that we wanted to give it a try (and I made a promise to myself that if Nasi Lengko couldn’t satisfy my tastebuds I shall just deal with it). On the bright side, DR & I are not really that demanding when it comes to foods. Give us anything (well, not literally), we’ll eat it right away.

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Nasi Lengko is basically rice served with tempeh (Indonesian soybean cake), tofu, bean sprouts,  sliced cucumber with peanut sauce and soy sauce. We also ordered a portion of Sate Kambing (goat satay), just in case the Nasi Lengko didn’t impress us. Well, my first impression of Nasi Lengko was, not bad. But, I had to agree with plenty of other Jakartans who didn’t find this food impressive. It didn’t taste bad at all, it just tasted rather plain. I might not have a sudden crave towards Nasi Lengko. The Sate Kambing did more work in satisfying my tummy.

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After finishing my portion I went out to get more photos. I was tempted to order a cup of durian ice cream as a dessert. But, remembering that I just had Sate Kambing, having a durian intake might not be the wisest thing to do haha. Cholesterol alert, people!

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Later on that day, after having a nice shower at the hotel and a short nap. Lukas took us to Cirebon’s second-most famous cuisine after Empal Gentong, Nasi Jamblang (steamed rice wrapped in Java plum leave). You would find plenty of food trucks and even small restaurants selling Nasi Jamblang in almost every spot of the city. I have tried Nasi Jamblang before in my former visitation to Cirebon two years ago and this one tasted way better.

If you happen to visit Cirebon, you should really try Nasi Jamblang at Jl. Perujakan. It’s a  decent place on the side of the road, consisting of one big table where they put all the side dishes in bowls that you can handpick to accompany your nasi jamblang, plus three wooden benches.

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The Perks of Being Twenty - Travel - Cirebon - Foodies - Lifestyle - Nasi Jamblang 04

Some of the dishes that we would recommend for you to try are:
1. Cumi Hitam (black squid)
2. Perkedel Kentang (potato fritters) – this is really da bomb! 1 wouldn’t be enough for you, as we got ourselves 10 of it!

3. Paru (beef lung)

We fell in love deeply with it at the first bite, we quickly decided to go back tomorrow night before heading back to Jakarta. I actually still wanted to have the second round, but I gotta save my tummy because the culinary exploration didn’t stop there.

The Perks of Being Twenty - Travel - Cirebon - Foodies - Lifestyle - Nasi Jamblang 01

The Perks of Being Twenty - Travel - Cirebon - Foodies - Lifestyle - Nasi Jamblang 03

Roti Bakar (toast) Gaternia was next! It is famous for its ice choco milk, toast and also grilled banana with several toppings like cheese, choco sprinkles, condensed milk, peanut butter, eggs, canned corned beef, etc. Every menu they had screamed, “Fat! Fat! Fat!” loudly to my ear. I immediately put a reminder on my iPhone to not skip exercise once I’m back in Jakarta and burn all these calories intake.

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I ordered the grilled banana with condensed milk, cheese and peanuts on top. While DR went for something salty. He ordered the toast with eggs, cheese and corned beef. To accompany our “sinful” night we ordered ice choco milk. On the other side of the world drinking milk and eating toast is considered as breakfast. But here in Indonesia, we love to enjoy it at night. As desserts. Sometimes, even after having a big dinner.

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The moment I hopped into the car,  I began to feel slightly bloated. All I could think of was closing my eyes and sleep. But, we still have one more food to try, Martabak (stuffed pancake). We ordered the thin and crunchy one, with chocolate filling. There were other filling such as cheese, nutella, ovomaltine and peanut butter. In Jakarta, you can also find martabak with red velvet and green tea filling. Yeap, Indonesians are that creative when it comes to food. Anyway, the martabak here in Cirebon is very cheap (IDR 25,000 per box) compared to the ones in Jakarta that would cost around IDR 100,000 per box. We decided to have this tomorrow as a take away to accompany our drive back to Jakarta.

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Day 2 started a bit late. We enjoyed the long weekend too much we stayed in bed until Lukas called us and told us to get ready. No breakfast for us, as we headed right away for brunch. When you read that word “brunch” don’t imagine us having a fancy western country kind of brunch. We went to the ultimate signature cuisine of Cirebon, Empal Gentong. It is a spicy curry-like beef soup cooked in a clay pot (gentong). The soup consists of beef meat, intestine, tripes, lungs, etc and made out of coconut milk. Best served with rice and chilli powder. Oh, and we also had (Kerupuk Kulit) spicy cattle skin crackers to accompany our brunch.

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We had one of the best tonguegasm experience the moment we sipped the soup, chewed the soft and juicy beef meat, and dipped the tasty skin crackers into the soup.

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The Perks of Being Twenty - Travel - Cirebon - Foodies - Lifestyle - Empal Gentong 04

Next destination was, Mitang. The place was located in the local habitation in Cirebon. We had to park our car and walked across a small bridge that led us to a narrow street with colorful houses standing side by side. Mitang is a deep fried sliced potato powdered with several flavors like cheese, barbecue sauce, seaweed, corn flour (this is the best flavor, no kidding), etc. They sell them in little plastic bags for IDR 10,000 each.

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As a number one fan of french fries, it didn’t take me too long to decide that I want more of this tasty and crunchy mitang. I realized that IDR 10,000 is not enough for my greedy tummy. I was very happy when Lukas told me that we can actually order mitang in a bigger portion and bring it back to Jakarta. DR & I quickly placed our order, each of us bought ourselves IDR 50,000 of mitang (that is 5 times the normal size). I grinned happily as I left the place.

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Few hours later, after some exploration around the city, Lukas took us to try Mie Koclok (shook noodle). It’s actually a chicken noodle, but the soup is made out of chicken broth, coconut milk and tapioca. This made the white-colored and extra-thick soup looks similar to a porridge. The noodle had chicken breast, bean sprouts, hard boiled egg and fried shallot. Mie Koclok is definitely a must have and a come back material.

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The Perks of Being Twenty - Travel - Cirebon - Foodies - Lifestyle - Mie Koclok 01

Before leaving Cirebon we went back to Nasi Jamblang and satisfied our tummy knowing that we would not be able to taste it again in quite a long run. It felt as if I was saying goodbye to someone I deeply fell in love with. After Nasi Jamblang, we had the Martabak for take away, and we also went back to Mitang to take our orders.

Cirebon, you’ve been spoiling my tongue and tummy in such a way that no Michellin-starred restaurant could ever substitute. I would definitely keep you as one of the easiest culinary getaway whenever I have the opportunity to revisit you.

Write to you later,

HG. (@gersonhenry)