Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Crossing the Borders of Israel and Palestine

With the intention of visiting Masjid al-Aqsha, my family exended their omra tour alongside with visit to Palestine through crossing their Israeli border via Jordan. The Israeli and Palestine border can be accessed by car upon proper inspections. After making our arrival visa in the Israeli border, we then proceed to the city Jericho by the Palestinian West Bank in to which we enjoyed lunch in a restaurant would require you to take a cable car upward since it is located on a hill. The funny thing it was located on a hill within the lowest land around the world as the city of Jericho is located 223 metres under the sea level. The bus ride we had to Jericho were interesting as we went on a well constructed descending roads and definitely felt the change of air pressure inside the bus yet the view really were worth the journey as you can see the beautiful natural layer of sands, rocks and green plantation along the road we took.

What makes this picture is the different color of the car plates.
The green indicates a Palestinian car and the yellow indicated the car as an Israeli car.

Honestly, along the trip it is confusing to locate whether or not we are within the border of Palestine and Israel but the next day were spent on exploring Jerusalem. We stayed at Holy Land Hotel in Jerusalem, a little hotel that has very pleasant room and decent WiFi. The first night of our stay were actually on the New Year's Eve! I spent it staying inside the room and looking by the window, expecting for firework show.... yet none occur, hahaha. After power breakfast on the next day, we moved along to the city of Hebron in Jerusalem. 

Our guide told us to prepare upon our identity cards upon entering the secured area of the 'Cave of the Patriarchs' or also known as Prophet Ibrahim Sanctuary and mosque. The inside of the building contains several cenotaph and were decorated with beautiful chandeliers and carpets. Like many other sites across Palestine and Israel, the site transcends the belief of multiple religions such as Christianity, Judaism and Islam. The Hebron area by the time were under several political tension; but it is thought-proviking to see how the sites were managed greatly despite all that. The surroundings of the city were very beautiful with the clear skies and the breezy air accompanying our tour.

Our lunch that day were actually Chinese restaurant that serves Indonesian food. I didn't realize that I miss Indonesian food so much until that day. It was a beautiful surprise from the tour. We had courses served in typical rijstaffel method consisting of soto ayam (chicken soup), perkedel jagung (corn fritter), ayam goreng (fried chicken), rendang (beef stew with curry sauce), sambal (chili pepper sauce), telur bawang (omelet) amongst other. The hint of flavors of home got me missing some food back home. By the way, my Israeli tour guide spoke Indonesian really really well. His signature phrase is "cepat, cepat, cepat!" and we teases him a lot for it! Hahahaha.

These are the view across the restaurant.
Some of the graffiti hold some very, very powerful messages.

The main point of interest of our tour to Israel-Palestine is the Masjid al-Aqsa which stood tall in its golden roof and its beautiful architecture. I had one prayer here and it was a beautiful feeling. I was grateful for having the chance to visit the mosque, as at other time my father were about to pray here by the next day (as the mosque is accessible by foot from the hotel) there were a bit of an uproar where the mosque entrance were shut down by the military force by the time of morning prayer. Thankfully everything sorted out alright; but from then we realized the tension between the two states (in its own definition) and the religious influences was very real and its impacting the lives of many people regardless of their background and personality despite other things we had saw previously from the tour where people were actually peaceful and far from what we knew as what had been portrayed in the media. This puts us to ground and to be ever more aware of the condition of the world and the essences of humanity. 

It is however unfortunate that we did not had a glimpse of the condition of the people within the Gaza strip. The whole experience however is very eye opening. I hope I would have the chance to visit the two sates again and hopefully in a condition where peace has been achieved and where human were all treated as human regardless of their background. My prayer goes to those impacted by the conflict and to have the states going forward in achieving the greater good for their people. It is a great experience, but it is time to travel back to Jordan to then finally have a safe flight back home. This concludes my Middle Eastern omra experience in the late 2014 to the early 2015. Shall there be more adventures soon!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Festival Jajanan Bango 2015

Festival Jajanan Bango is back in town! 2015 is apparently the year in which I attend the event for the first time. I've been always avoiding crowd and basically going out (homebody at its best) but after seeing the line up for the food stalls that is filling in for the Bango annual event, apparently I got hooked and decided to have a visit to its Jakarta event. I was excited since most of the vendors were famous all-around as it shall be a business of at least two years experience and shall be complemented by Kecap Bango sweet soy sauce product while showcasing their product in this event. The arena in Plaza Barat Senayan were very crowded; I arrived at 11 in the morning and the road has already been in traffic since there were also other events being held around the area. Thankfully my party still got a parking close enough to the back entrance of the festival.

I was honestly a bit overwhelmed with the humidity, heat and overall crowd yet at the same time I was pretty excited as people got very interested in Indonesian traditional food and having the chance to try out some culinary products from the multiple islands of Indonesia. The lines and everything finally led me to a familiar stand -- a family favorite of the food closest to my hometown: Sate Padang Ajo Ramon.

Sate Padang Ajo Ramon (IDR 20.000)
Sate Padang Ajo Ramon original branch is by the parking lot of the notorious Pasar Santa. I remember getting all excited ever since elementary grade whenever my family decided to dine in the humble hawker. Sate Padang, or Padangnese satay (grilled meat on stick) has been my ever-favourite Indonesian food and this is the joint where I would recomment all people to get their best taste of the dish. The particular dish were sold on a cheaper price although in apparent fewer portion that you get from the original place but it is steal definitely a steal. This order were made by my brother, hence the all beef loin selection; personally I liked to get a portion of a mixed satay so I can get parts of the beef innards including the lungs and intestines which were my favorite to order at Sate Padang Ajo Ramon.

Pallu Basa Ma' Daeng Makassar (IDR 20.000)
South Celebesi soup is delicious as it is rich yet also vibrant. This time I'm pretty happy to get a taste of Makassar in this event. Generous cut of beef in fragrant soup with hints of delicious broth and coconut garnished with scallions, squeeze of lime, fried shallots and also a self-served helping amount of Bango soy sauce. Served hot with rice, be careful of breaking the plates as you go around the area looking for a dining table.

Cucur Super (IDR 15.000)
Five pieces of kue cucur is certainly a deal. Cucur Super served kue cucur with appropriate sweetness and the cake was far from oily. The cake is also spongey, sweet, and soft in the middle while still have an apparent crunchy and stickyness in its thin sides. I initially wanted to bring this one home, but everyone ended up liking it so much that there were none left as we left our seats.

Nasi Goreng Mafia (IDR 20.000)
Instead of serving all of the signature menu with unique name that is such a characteristic of Nasi Goreng Mafia, this time the stand offer only two type of menu: sweet or spicy. I'm not sure what is the original name of the menu but I picked out the spicy one and loved it. It was a fried rice that is so aromatic, had a bit of crunchiness from the texture of the rice that is a bit dry and separated from one another. Service were not exacly fast in this case but the flavor deliver. I might order their menu soon through GO-JEK sometime this month.

Ketan Susu Mbok NeAncuk (IDR 15.000)
Sold at Rp15.000 a piece, this one is the least satisfying order we made. Firstly they were out of banana that were on most of their menu, the price doesn't seem to match the portion (especially on our plain ketan order!) andddd they don't serve their wedang ronde during the festival which I say is a total miss. The dish itself were pretty decent but there were not much since the topping and everything else were not too generous. We bought three: chocolate cheese and banana ketan, srikaya cheese and banana ketan, and the plain milk ketan. The ketan or sticky rice itself were generous but the milk element were only drizzled condensed milk. I was hoping for more and unfortunately I didn't get what I expected.

Magnum now serves a white chocolate coated ice cream, added with bits of almond. Two of my most loved dessert element. This particular tasted very milky and the almond remains crunch. Ultimate thirst-quencher!

The event were totally a success seeing from the crowd, the organized traffic of people, the flow of the staff and everything. It is unfortunate that this event is only held once a year by one day amongst three regions of Indonesia (which is limited only within the island of Java). The pricing of most of the menu is appropriate although beverages is a scarce there. Nonetheless I think this is a good event and is such a great representative of Indonesian culinary tradition and I hope the event would only go bigger, greater, andddddd longer!