Bintan; the nights we diffused into stardusts

[Bintan, July 2013]

There, the only thing that mattered was darkness. The darkness we hid under, the darkness we clung on, the solitude we sought to get us out from everything our heart couldn't kill.

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I took a ferry to Bintan and arrived around midnight. My best friend came to get me from the terminal, and with the car windows down and the wind blowing hard, we strolled fast around the island alongside the ocean, laughing and drinking and being very happy that we're there together, feeling stronger and less lonely. On our way to his house (where I was staying at), we stopped over at a restaurant for late dinner by the beach. People were already showing their friendliness that I had a good feeling about this getaway. We had local seafood and beer and talked nonsensically about the future, how we had no idea where life is going to take us to, and we decided to live young. But most of all, how glad we were that my best friend and I, we always make time to get each other's back.

The next morning we rode around the island and took many landscape pictures. The road was quite and burning, we almost always cut our stops short because of the unbearable heat. But I liked the quietness, it was almost as if we're the only people that existed. It was the last week of fasting month which was probably why there weren't that many people outside. Another friend joined us later on and it became the three of us throughout the trip. I was on my period so we made several stops for lunch and snacks and luckily most people were still fasting so restaurants weren't crowded at all. The day passed by quickly as we spent most of our time on the road, going from one place to another to take pictures and pause in between wild thoughts.

We drove through the beautiful sunset on our way to meet my best friend's family for dinner. We didn't eat anything though, we've already got another dinner plan someplace else. We went to Akau later on, where there were seafood stalls and coffee stands. There were so many interesting objects to photograph, the beautiful mess and smokes that made the best compositions in my pictures. My friends looked for a table when I walked around the food market photographing chinese kids who were attracted to my camera. Not long after I looked for our seat my friends had picked, when the kids I photographed before tailed me to our table and quickly snapped pictures of me from behind with a phone camera that looked like their dad's, and ran away laughing.

The night got older and it was almost 1 AM, dinner was over and we're headed to the hills. The road was pitch black, there were almost no road lights so the stars were glowing and very visible, our car windows were completely rolled down. We made several stops to photograph the night sky, the exploding stars for dinner two nights in a row. Whenever we pulled over, the fear of being outside in the dark died the second I looked up and saw through the Universe. The last time I saw that many stars was probably in Gili two years ago, and in Bandung a year ago. We almost ran out of patience every time we had to wait for every single photograph to process. Taking photos of the stars were exhausting, but the amazing results made up for the time and energy we spent. There were endless laughters and storytelling in between switching turns in using my camera. We once pulled over on a bridge and as my camera was laid on top of the car (none of us had tripod) and recording moments, we ran around the empty road, thinking what if suddenly cars or motorbikes run us over. We kept making stories up whenever we heard noises in the dark, trying to scare each other out but always ended up with inside jokes or harmless mockeries. We felt boundless, like curious souls trying to swallow the world and we diffused into stardusts.

We went home at 3 AM and overslept until noon. My friends rushed me to the ferry terminal after lunch because it's time for me to board. I hugged them goodbye and I promised them I'll stay longer in Bintan the next time around. It was a tough 2 hours boat ride back to Singapore, restless and wanting a longer holiday.

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• On the way to Bintan •
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• The view from the car window •
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• First dinner by the beach •
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• Waking up the next morning •
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• The house I was staying at •
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• Hitting the long winding road •
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• Photographed by Nara while taking photographs in Busung •
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• The bridge that was also our last stargazing stop later on during the night •
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• Snacking on fried ice cream •
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• Akau food market •
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• Happy children •
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• Hunting cityscapes after dinner •
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• Going uphill •
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• Best dessert ever •
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• Coliding stars •
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• I saw shooting stars twice. One of my wishes didn't come true •
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• Crossing back to Singapore •
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Ramadhan 2013 in Indonesia

[Jakarta, July 2013]

A very late posting of Ramadhan month in Indonesia.

The last month of my three months break was spent in Indonesia. I arrived in Jakarta just two nights before fasting month started. I spent most of my days catching up with my family and making time for family anniversaries and cooking at home. I noticed being home always brings me to a new adventure, no matter how long or short they last, there are still new experiences and though they're not always peachy, I can't deny that the bitterness of the adventures I get from time to time always give me the most important lessons in life.

There was a garage sale some Jakarta friends put together on the first weekend since I was back and I joined in last minute. It took place at a very nice Javanese pavilion not too far from my house, owned by this gorgeous gemini friend of mine (who's also, by the way, the owner of a very chic local clothing line Cotton Ink). Setting up our stalls took a little longer than I thought. I had two days of fun at the garage sale, it was sort of a reunion with my favourite people in town too. And on top of that, I went home with some extra cash and to a bigger closet space. It's always good to get rid of things I no longer use.

In between grandparent's anniversary and my parents anniversary, there were also seeing babies growing up to speaking, screaming children, far cousins I've known for so long but never had the chance to watch them become little beings with ideas and firecrackers in their hands, hoping to be bigger. In my heart I said, 'just you wait darling, you will be bigger and the world will seem smaller in your arms'. My family brought over a cheesecake and there were lots of home cooked food that of course were my grandparents'.

The same night after a family gathering I went to see some musician friends perform at a bus terminal turned to an outdoor concert venue. It's been years since I first saw them perform at a local bar and they still amaze me just as much. Jakarta was just like in movie scenes that very moment. Satay stall smokes and cheap motorbikes and brown skinned people were flooding the space, and a car pulled over to pick me up and drive me home. Amidst the crowd, a person I haven't seen yet I have loved for years stepped out of the car and I caught his eyes, catching mine. He smiled, I approached him and got to his car. And just like that I melted along with the beauty of a rare find I've held for the longest time. The rest of the night was just about driving home but time had never felt more precious. There was a full moon expedition the next day. But this is a story for another day.

On my parents' 24th anniversary, the house was empty. Our maids had gone home for Idhul Fitri celebration which was coming up, my younger brother was still in Coventry, the house was quiet. I decided to cook my parents a nice dinner and prepared them nice desserts. It's nice to spoil my parents like that. They will always prefer my cooking instead of eating out, and I was glad I had improved my cooking and tried more recipes for the past few months. They devoured some lamb chops and licked clean the strawberry sauce off my pavlova platter, I was satisfied.

One evening I invited my good friends over for dinner and I made them nice roasted chicken with all the delicious things on the table they can munch on endlessly. Coming home would never really feel like coming home if I don't have a doze of dinner like this with them, full of laughter, harmless inside jokes and exchanging ideas. The thing I love the most about spending times with my favourite people is that laughter and conversations don't slow down even when our bellies are full and our backs are attached to the cushions.

I went on a road trip to Bandung on the last weekend to see my big brother perform with his main band for the first time. Being in Bandung always feels like home. It is my second home after all. People are nicer there and the city is almost always smiling. I managed to see the old faces I've been missing, though briefly, it was better than not seeing them at all. I had two friends with me from Jakarta who were willing to drive me to Bandung and back. We stayed overnight, me at my cousin's place and them two at their friends'. We met up again in the morning to go back to Jakarta. Goodbyes are always bittersweet with Bandung. But I knew I will be back soon.

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• Father snacking at my Grandma's house •
• Thrives Motorcycle, looking a lot more alive than ever •
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• Pandora Box garage sale •
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• Fun weekend at the garage sale •
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• Bandung trip, yet again •
• The bittersweetness of Bandung always makes the best object to photograph•
• Ragusa craving •
• Grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary •
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• Blowing candles and making wishes in prayers •
• A baby cousin I just met •
• Cousins playing firecrackers •
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• Musician friends I never get bored of listening to • 
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• On a full moon expedition •
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• Tacos takeaway for snacking •
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• Getting intimate with the universe beyond our vision, gotta love Sky Safari •
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• Moon mate •
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• Cooking for my parents on their 24th wedding anniversary •
• Mom waiting for the lamb chops to be served in a bed of rocket salad, me finishing up the lamb chops •
• Taking pictures of the food excessively •
• Soft-baked pavlovas for dessert •
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• My parents are such a happy couple •
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• Home cooked dinner with my beloved friends that one night on my last week in Jakarta •