Banda Aceh: Icons Of The Tsunami & Some Street Photos

The Grand Mosque, Masjid BaiturRahman – House of The Mercy Mosque became a sanctuary when it happened

It has been more than a decade since the destruction caused by the tsunami that hit Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh Province, Indonesia. Life goes on. The city has been rebuilt and looks like any other city in Indonesia. Some scars still remain though. Not only as a reminder, but some, for its exceptionally withstanding the brunt of the force of the wall of water. They are now icons of the tsunami. I am sure there are many, but five of them are now very popular as tourist attractions.

I visited four of them. I missed the dome of a mosque that was swept more than twenty kilometres away inland and stranded in a paddy field.

Masjid BaiturRahim – House of The Merciful Mosque lies near the shore at Ulee Lheue

Masjid Rahmatullah – The Mercy of Allah Mosque at Lampuuk not far away from the shore. I was told that the water reached the dome

This is an electric generator on a barge

A stark contrast of a boat not on water but on a roof of what used to be a house


Here are some street photos.

Night Photography On A Moving Becak


I shot these pictures a while back in March 2010 during my visit to the city of Jogjakarta, Java, Indonesia. I was on a becak (pronounced bay-chark) on my way back to the hotel from the popular shopping area, locals and tourists alike, of Malioboro and it was raining lightly. As can be seen from the picture above, the view ahead was opened to me. I was taken with and fascinated by the reflection of the colours on the wet road surface. It struck me on how the images might look when exposed at varying shutter speeds. Without much hesitation I took the camera out and began experimenting.

Short exporsure - ¼ second

Long exposure - 1 second

Longer exposure - 4 seconds

Images of Lingga, Riau Archipelago Province, Indonesia

Pictures taken during my travel to the island of Lingga in Riau Archipelago, Indonesia, just south of Singapore.

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Some details of the pictures here are on my flickr site.

Images of Moro, Riau Archipelago, Indonesia

Here are some of the pictures shot while I was visiting Moro, Riau Archipelago Province, Indonesia.

Harbour Front Ferry Terminal, Singapore

The Town of Tanjung Balai in Karimun

Pier in Tanjung Balai for the fast boat to Moro

Pier in Moro

The town of Moro. The white building is purpose built for swiflets to dwell so that they can harvest the nest

Brahminy Kite or Red-backed Sea Eagle


There are many of them

Shipping, I don't know the destination

This one I know

Exporting fish to Singapore

Houses behind the town street

Road leading away from Moro town

Stilt houses next to sea

Houses on neighbouring island

Low tide

Small fishing boats

A finished sampan ready for coating



One of the few penginapans or inns

View of Moro town from the sea

Ferry schedule

Accommodations & Getting Around Singapore and Beyond

Cavenagh Bridge and Fullerton Building (presently being used as a hotel), two of the old icons of Singapore

Singapore is an island city state that it is possible to visit various locations in a day thanks to the excellent public transport. All you need is just an EZ-Link Card to travel around by the local buses and trains services. These trains services are termed the Mass Rapid Transit, or the MRT for short. The EZ-Link Card can be bought at any 7-Eleven convenience store or any train station for S$10 or S$12 with an initial value of S$5 or S$7 respectively. You need to top-up the stored value for another S$10 at least if not more. It depends on the frequency of your ride and note that if you top-up at 7-Eleven store there will be a service charge of S$0.50 as of this writing and no additional charge if you top it up at any train station. Past midnight you only have taxis for transport and there is a surcharge of 50% on top of the meter reading.

Robinson Rd not busy as Orchard Rd. Exit at Tanjong Pagar MRT Station

There is a new dormitory hostel that I had just found out called City Backpackers in Chinatown area. Previously I only knew of the one in Bencoolen Street which has been around for ages. For budget hotels, go look for it at Changi Road. These hotels are a walking distance to the train station plus you can find many local eateries nearby and some open past midnight if not 24 hours. There are many budget hotels in Geylang Road just after Changi Road towards the city but look for one near the junction of Paya Lebar Road (near the Paya Lebar MRT Station.) The other hotels in Geylang Road further down the road between Lorong 1 and Lorong 22 may be attractive to some. They are in a district associated with a certain colour and besides the full daily rental they also rent out the room for 3 hours for lesser amount. It is not for transit passengers and I think you get the idea. Many budget and reasonable hotels can also be found around the famous Mustafa Shopping Centre (there’s a supermaket too) which opens 24 hours daily at Serangoon Road area otherwise known as Little India. Quite a number are found at Jalan Besar just east of Bencoolen Street and a walking distance to Mustafa Shopping Centre. Still, if you want to stretch your dollars further, then stay in budget hotel in Johor Bahru, Malaysia and come to visit Singapore in the daytime and return to Johor Bahru by night.

Hotel 81 and Tristar Inn, a walking distance from Paya Lebar MRT Station

Another hotel along Changi Road, near to Eunos MRT Station

What about premium hotels? I don’t have to mention it, they are in abundance and mostly in the city and business district area, the popular tourist shopping belt of Orchard Road.

Typical settlement in Riau Archipelago, Indonesia

From Singapore, you can go travelling to the neighbouring regions. There are ferry services to Riau Archipelago, Indonesia at Tanah Merah and Harbour Front ferry terminals. You can go to Peninsula Malaysia (West Malaysia) by train, bus or taxi. There is a bus and taxi terminal at one of the ends of Queen Street that creates a T-junction with Arab Street. The other end meets Bras Basah Road. Here you can choose to go to Johor Bahru, Malaysia via express or non-express bus or taxi. Or, you can take the MRT and go north closer to the border to Kranji MRT Station where there are buses operated by two different companies that will take you across the causeway to Johor Bahru. The alternative to Kranji MRT Station is to go to Woodlands MRT Station and beneath the station there is a bus terminal, look for bus service number 950 to Johor Bahru. Please note that once you are done with the Singapore Immigration and Customs checks make sure you board the same bus (service number) or at least the bus operated by the same company. Failing to do so you will be charged for the fare again.

Queen Street Bus Terminal

Kranji MRT Station. The railing on the left is where the queue for the buses. There are two railings one for each of the two bus operators

Woodlands MRT Station. Below is a bus terminal. The railing ahead of the bus pictured here is where the queue for service 950 to Johor Bahru

There are other express bus terminals with buses that go to other states in Malaysia which you can read here. But frankly if you are on a budget it is best to go to Larkin Bus Terminal in Johor Bahru for express bus services to other states in Peninsula Malaysia. Not only there are more choices, it is cheaper too.

I did not mention specifically the train service from Singapore to Johor Bahru because it is a short distance and there is no shuttle service except for the daily schedule services to Kuala Lumpur and Kelantan with stopover at Johor Bahru, but then it is cheaper to get the ticket in Johor Bahru. From Malaysia you can continue with the train journey up to Bangkok at Butterworth, Penang, Malaysia. This train travels overnight and takes about 22 hours to reach Bangkok. It sounds disheartening but at least it’s a train journey with sleepers and not a bus journey plus you save the price of a one night hotel stay. Do not expect the landscape to change dramatically once the train crossed over to Thailand because culture wise it is about the same within the border areas, the only difference is that you begin to see Thai temples come into view ever increasingly in frequency.

Hua Lamphong Train Station, Bangkok. The journey from Butterworth ends here. There are a few budget hotels along the road seen here on the right side of the picture. Picture shot from Station Hotel

If only there is a train link in Cambodia or Laos, it would then be possible to travel overland by train all the way from Singapore to Europe via China and Russia. At the moment, this is only possible if you can make it from Thailand to Vietnam via Cambodia or Thailand to China via Laos by whatever means you can overland. Its a dream that is not impossible.

Note: I write this article hopefully it will be of help to budget travelers like me. Wish you a happy and safe travels.

Update 11 October 2013

Well I have read it somewhere that they gonna built high speed rail from China right up to Singapore through Laos. It will be in phases. For starters one is from Laos to Thailand and the other from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and it will not be solely for passengers.  I don’t know if I have the chance to experience it but it is good to know it is in the pipeline. Cheers to it.

Riau Archipelago, Republic of Indonesia

Riau Islands. The dots on the horizon are fish traps with huts

Riau archipelago is situated just south of Singapore and is part of Riau Islands Province of Indonesia which also includes islands in the South China Sea between East and West Malaysia. There are 3200 islands in the province and mostly uninhabited. Tanjung Pinang in Pulau Bintan is the capital city and the administrative office for the province but the hive of economic activities are in Pulau Batam just next to Pulau Bintan. Suffice to say that the island of Pulau Batam is where the bulk of the population resides accounting for 2/3 of it. The rest are scattered in other major islands of the province and on smaller islands in the vicinity of these major islands.

Many are uninhabited (pardon the pincushion oops barrel)

There is only one International Ferry Terminal in Pulau Bintan, at least five in Pulau Batam and one in Pulau Karimun. These ferry terminals cater for ferries that go to and from Singapore and Malaysia. They also serve as international entry points to Indonesia.

Travelling between the major islands in the Riau Archipelago are by ferries, each of which can accommodate more than a hundred passengers. The travelling time can be as long as five hours for the outlying islands like Pulau Lingga or Pulau Singkep from Pulau Bintan or Pulau Batam. Time that is worth  spent on the roof deck if the weather permits. There are also fast boat services to intermediate islands that can accommodate about thirty passengers, they are called Speed by the locals. These boats are powered by three or four high-powered huge outboard motors.

Main mode of transport between major islands

If weather permits, best to be on roof deck

Speeds at Sekupang Domestic Ferry Terminal, Batam. The one on the left have five engines. Speeds with three engines are either smaller in size or have bigger engine capacity

In this age of Internet, communication is not a problem. At the least there is one Internet Café in every major islands if not many. If one happens to be in a secluded island spot, cell phone coverage should suffice. Radio signals travel further over water than over land because land is ground, it absorbs the signals more. As for entertainment, the usual applies, local television that is. Besides the terrestrial  television coverage, there is also satellite coverage for the outlying areas in all of Indonesia.

Communication is not a problem


Only a handful of islands have mountains, the rest are mainly hilly and while others are just pieces of flat lands. The inhabitants on these scattered outlying islands mostly live by the sea in houses built on stilts. They were mostly fishermen. A few of them were boat builders, masters boat builders, they are very skilled in their craft. They travel within their vicinity by their personal sampans or small boats and if the economics is strong there are ferry services by small boats called Pompong. Life is very simple. If a kampung have a jetty or pier, the ferry will berth at it for passengers to board and alight but if there isn’t any, then they will be ferried over to and from the ferry by small boat. The manoeuvre to board and alight the ferry requires skill if not courage on the passenger part plus the ability to swim or at least to stay afloat.

Few islands with mountains

The rest are mainly hilly

Just a piece of flat land, a candidate for personal island

Colony with quite a number of inhabitants

Typical colony houses

Colony houses (secluded)

Fish traps and huts

Boats being built


Pier in a populous kampung

The need of a boat for colony with no jetty

boarding the ferry sometimes can be hazardous

If you are going for seaside resort, Pulau Batam and Pulau Bintan have lots of it. But if you are the adventurous types, then the outlying islands beckon you. No frills, just basic.


On My Way to Central Java

Well, they say new broom sweeps clean. These few days, I have been very active in updating this blog. Now on my way to Solo, Indonesia.

I left the house at 6.30 pm and reached Johor Senai Airport at about 8.00 pm. Had nasi lemak at Marry Brown. The counter to KL had not opened yet so I waited a while. Later with the boarding pass in hand, went straight in and loitered around in the departure hall. Found a corner with power point, fired up the comp and start surfing while waiting for boarding.

There was about 35 minutes delay. At 11.05 pm the flight left Senai and arrived at KL LCC terminal 45 minutes later. Nice to see that the terminal is bustling with people, some leaving and some staying and hanging around. A look at the departure board I found out that there were lots of international flights departing in the morning starting at around 5.00 am. I guess they were all like me waiting for the morning flight.

Will post some pics later.

Update: Ok here is a pic of Senai Airport departure hall.

Senai Airport Departure Hall at 10:30 pm