A Weekend in Kuala Lumpur: A Reflection

It will always be my belief that life itself is an endless pursuit of meaning. Soe Hok Gie in his renowned poem desired to die inside his lover’s arm after a lifetime of “search for meaning”; that even the devil himself has no clue about. The world-celebrated psychiatrist Viktor Frankl in his magnum opus ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ introduced the mass into the concept of logotherapy, again, parallel with the title. Contemporary readings are recently introducing Ikigai, the Japanese concept that means roughly ‘that which makes life worth living’. I could certainly say that I am not alone in this mortal quest.

Perhaps, spending a weekend in Kuala Lumpur for visiting a buddy of 6 years has been one of the many highlights I had for 2019. Started out as the wittiest of conversations that we had within Instagram direct message realm, it gradually evolved into amusing yet deep and the most earnest tête-à-tête ever. Perhaps, discovering our own ‘fan-theory’ about our minuscule significance in this universe was the most dumbfounding thing.

I can remember it clearly regarding our day discoveries. How it ends up with a series of serendipities.

That night when I discovered rows of printed shirts in your wardrobe that lead us to a huge thrift shop at the side of a quiet road (by the time this was written I was spending the last 15 minutes searching for its name… to no avail). Or, the time we were avoiding a group of lion dancers in Chinatown we ended up uncovering a pretty little alley that was pretty unknown that moment. Or, when we went all the way to Cyberjaya just to visit a fun spot and ended up not making it inside. A pretty unpleasant one, but still, we encountered an enjoyable train ride with an appealing golden hour ray. And oh, the most epic one perhaps went to the time we stumble across Joe Taslim’s doppelgänger when we had our Polo Bun breakfast.

Talk about the time we stayed up until 3 AM for the sake of talking about body authority and how empowering it is to be in charge of our self. Or how the world itself is constantly changing we have to keep ourselves hawk-eyed with it. I am immensely thankful knowing you personally, intimately.

I, an INTJ, hereby proclaim to acquire a new ENFP to conquer the earth together. Or in other words, another ENFP in my life has adopted me as a companion, haha.

Here’s for many adventures and discoveries ahead and as always, being incredibly spontaneous and living life dangerously. Perhaps, that is indeed what life is meant to be.

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Norway Birthday Trip– Oslo #1

My mum used to joke about my hometown, Solo (a city in Central Java) by making an anagram out of it– from Solo to Oslo, “just to make it sounds cooler (and for the fact that it’s a European city. It’s common for us to romanticise everything European.)”.

The thoughts on being actually in Oslo, moreover for my 24th birthday, never crossed in my mind until I came across ticket deals for a round trip to Oslo at the end of October. I checked Skyscanner like I always did in my spare times to see if somewhere is worthy and cheap enough to visit. Perhaps Oslo wasn’t a really popular destination during the period so the airlines gave £20 for a round trip? Without further ado, I purchased the tickets. The reason why I did so was because I was beyond stressed that time. I tried several attempts to land a job in London but failed miserably (due to some reasons whatsoever). I decided to gave my mind a break. Later, I contacted a friend of mine who happens to be studying in Alta, Northern Norway, for his blessings on this hilariously spontaneous birthday trip:

“What if I go to Norway? 3 days for Oslo, and 6 days for around Northern Norway?” I typed.

“Are you being serious? Go for it!” he promptly answered.

That’s how I finally set my foot in Norway for my birthday. The first ever birthday solo trip.

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Flying around Europe (in this case, London– Oslo) is never a pain in the ass since it will take no longer than 3 and a half hour, so I’ll skip to the part when I arrived safely in Oslo. Getting around the city is extremely easy due to the existence of an online ticketing system called Rutterbillet (which I studied enough before I arrive). With the tip of the finger, I purchased transport tickets such as a one-way ticket to the city center from Oslo Gardermoen, and one-day passes for the subsequent days.

It was 5 PM when I reached Nationalteatret station near the city center followed by an en-route to the place where I’ll be staying. Regardless of being the capital of Norway, Oslo that day was quiet, extremely quieter than London. I expected crowds of people commuting home but everything seemed to contradict from it. 10 minutes into walking, I arrived at my apartment located in a neighbourhood called Vika. It was a strategic place where I can get around the city center easily within some few minutes walk. Perfect for my birthday plan which was two whole days of museums and art galleries walk.

I can always predict myself getting too overwhelmed after flights, no matter how short it was. I opted to ease up for the rest of the night and as everyone can predict, work a bit on something (I was doing a commissioned illustration that time). Additionally, I booked tickets for the museums hopping the next day. I was extremely exuberant.

However, it wasn’t everything rainbows and unicorns the first night I arrived in Oslo. Despite that I fell asleep quicker than I usually do, I was woken up by a sudden asthma attack– on my freaking birthday. I couldn’t believe my body decide to surface an illness that has been dormant for at least almost a year (I stopped having asthma attacks since I moved to London). The worst thing about this attack was I didn’t bother to pack medicines and inhaler since I never consume any of them for months. I came upon a solution to build a homemade nebulizer by boiling a pot of water and inhale the steam. It worked.

I quickly continued my sleep so that I can get up on time of my schedule.

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Everything went magnificently as I woke up as I expected: 9 AM sharp. Having nothing in the fridge for breakfast, I decided to get ready and went on a mission to find any open restaurant before 11 AM. Everyone might already know which specific restaurant was the only thing open during that time on a Sunday (re McDonald’s). Shortly, I ordered the classic McDonald’s breakfast menu (a muffin sandwich and a hash brown), complete with a cup of piping hot latte. There was no one else when I eat my breakfast– that time might be the most peaceful McDonald’s breakfast I ever had in my life; exactly on my birthday.

The National Gallery – Nasjonalmuseet

The first museum I was getting to was The National Gallery of Oslo, located just within a small walk from its closest train station, Nationalteatret. It was specifically located near the tourist gem of Karl Johans gate, a main road of Oslo. When I reached the place, people were lining up, waiting for their turn to get into the building and got their bags and belongings checked. It didn’t take too long for me to get inside the museum building, got my pre-booked ticket scanned, and put my bags and coats to the cloakroom. One stunning thing that I saw from museums in Oslo is they didn’t make me spend money for cloakrooms, compared to museums in London that’ll charge everyone £1.

The National Gallery of Oslo was a humble, compact museum, compared to what I saw across Europe (talk about Victoria & Albert Museum of South Kensington or Louvre!). I was set to see the permanent exhibition on the second floor of the building, that begins with me climbing a grandeur staircase in the middle of the foyer. I went directly to the room where the paintings of the well-known Norwegian maestro, Edvard Munch is (The Scream, The Dance of Life, Madonna, and The Sick Child were all displayed in this museum). Perhaps my decision to skip through the other parts of the museum was worth it as there weren’t any people in the room during the beginning of the opening times, and they prefer to go through the museum sequentially (and it’s just me, breaking the rules, as always).

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What I found incredibly interesting from The National Museum of Oslo is the existence of Drawing Studio, where visitors can sit down, take a piece of paper and pencils, and start drawing an object that is in front of them. This time it was a sculpture of a mother and her child embracing each other, which I perceive as a really sweet gesture. I found this experience quite relaxing, as it has been a while for me since the last time I dedicate myself for live drawing; presumably when I was a BA student in Jakarta.

I spent around 30 minutes here, redoing some sketches all over again (since I got extremely nervous when someone watches me drawing over my shoulder). I moved frequently across the room to get the perfect standpoint of the figure. Eventually, I found a perfect (blind) spot just in the corner of the room and finished a dessin I consider as satisfying. Upon finishing the drawing, I was given the choice to bring it home or pin it up amongst others in the room. I made up the latter decision, as I left a piece of my heart and thoughts in this pleasant, lovely place.

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Note: It turns out that this museum is currently closed during January 2019 to facilitate the move to the new National Museum opening in 2020. The works of Edvard Munch will be displayed in the new National Museum, so I suggest if anyone’s travelling to Oslo during those months to keep an eye on the news as some key artworks such as The Scream will be touring across Norway. Alternatively, the digital collection will always be available online.

Munch Museum – Munchmuseet

The second place I was visiting was Munch Museum, located in Tøyen, some few stops from the central Oslo via subway ride. The idea of building a museum was suggested by Munch himself, back in 1927. It all came to reality in 1946 when Oslo city council fulfill his wish and decided to build the museum in Tøyen after some few considerations of other locations such as Vigeland Park, Frogner district, or just in the downtown.

The museum is pleasantly located in between two parks, the University Botanical Garden and Tøyenparken. It was late autumn where the leaves mostly fell off the tree already, making the pathways to the museum feel like the yellow brick road to Oz. Since it was a weekend during my visit that day, I expected some families with little kids wandering around the museum. Dealing with kids is not really my cup of tea, but I guess that day was tolerable since I just want to be focusing on what was displayed rather than people of my surroundings. After doing some essential things for a museum visit in Oslo (bags check, ticket validation, cloakroom business), I got into the first part of the museum.

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It was an interactive family-friendly section where everyone can grab the brushes provided and paint with water (the medium was made to produce colours when interacting with water). I particularly enjoyed this part of the museum since I drowned into my own thoughts regarding interactive, immersive experiences relatively quick. It was an interesting addition to the museum for everyone to relish. People seemed to be enjoying the weekend more in such a place. Perhaps this is something that we can also apply in museums back home in the capital Jakarta?

There are no permanent exhibition displays in this museum despite being the home of more than half of Munch’s collections (approx. 1,150 paintings, close to 18,000 prints depicting more than 700 different motifs, 7,700 drawings, and watercolours as well as 13 sculptures). Instead, there are temporary exhibitions which are usually related to or responding to the works of Munch. I was seeing the exhibition of ‘Moonrise’, displaying works of Marlene Dumas (South African artist and painter) alongside with Munch’s works which she was inspired on.

I was fascinated that this exhibition made me know the fact that Munch had worked on a series of lithographs in 1908 called ‘Alpha and Omega’ (read more about the work here. It is an interesting ‘hidden gem’ of Munch everyone must know about!), which ultimately inspire Dumas to work on her respond series named ‘Venus and Adonis’. Both works were displayed next to other works by Dumas that revolve on the themes of innocence, sexuality, loneliness, anxiety, and death, which I found amazingly relatable.

I’m glad to leave the museum with new knowledge and some further intimacy with the prodigy himself.

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Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art

The last destination I was going for the day was more of a spontaneous act rather than a planned one. Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art is coincidently located at the hip pier area of Aker Brygge overlooking the Oslo fjords, 2 stops by bus from my apartment. The museum is home for various works of contemporary art including Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons– who were mostly dominating the main scene of the museum. The 2 main buildings and Tjuvholmen sculpture park were designed by the world-renowned architect Renzo Piano.

I was considerably lucky to be there during 2018, which was Astrup Fearnley’s 25-anniversary special exhibition that showcased their best of the best collections. That day was the first time ever I witness a formaldehyde-preserved animal work of Damien Hirst– and several times I observe Jeff Koons’. The adjoining part of the building includes the solo exhibition of Norwegian contemporary artist Fredrik Værslev.

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The day ended short as early as 4 PM when it just got darker and foggy. I was standing by the pier of Tjuvholmen sculpture park to admire the fjords that were slightly disguised by the mist. Despite not being on its best weather, I can still see the astonishing view of Hovedøya, Lindøya, and Gressholmen-Rambergøya simultaneously.

I rewarded the accomplishment of the first day of my birthday museums and galleries hopping by buying myself… 500 grams of chicken wings to devour greedily as dinner (although I didn’t finish them instantly on one sitting). It wasn’t something posh like everyone else did to treat themselves, but I love that I had my own way to celebrate.

Oslo, thank you for being so peaceful during my birthday (perhaps being on a Sunday also a fair reason behind this).

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As I end the day by climbing up my bed for a sweet slumber, I whispered in silence,

“I’m ready for the part two of my journey in Oslo”.

Honningsvåg in the Dawn of Winter

Perhaps if I could name one aspect which I really grateful for living literally across the equator is its consistency. It is indeed a terrific place to see the sun rises and sets at both when the clock hits 6. It is either sunny, cloudy, or rainy. Nothing else. Never in my life, I experience the temperature drops below 20 degrees (re Celsius). Despite living in the lap of comfort, for once in my life, I want to experience just one day living outside this steadiness. Whether it’s the duration of the daylight, the temperature, or just to be present in the midst of the unknown; far from the humid, mosquito-infested rainforest my skin comfortable with.

It all came to reality when I plunged into the Arctic Circle as a part of my impromptu birthday trip to Norway last November. Geographically, it is located so far north, even Alaska isn’t that north like Honningsvåg as I initially thought. Honningsvåg is just a bit more to reach the North Pole. It is indeed the gate to the North Pole.

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Honningsvåg is a city located in the municipality of Nordkapp in Finnmark county. It took me more or less than 3 hours to reach that city from Alta Airport with an intercity bus that costs me around £50 (yes, it did cost a lot to get around in such a remote place). It was noon when I hop into the bus that day, with a tube of Pringles in my hand that I bought from Oslo (alas, I couldn’t find anything at Alta Airport. Not even a McDonald’s. Turns out there isn’t any single fast-food chain restaurant there). Despite the fact that I was there during the exact middle of the day, the sky didn’t seem to cooperate by showing what exactly I used to see every 5 PM in Jakarta.

I finally set my foot in Honningsvåg when the bus stops just near the town hall across the church. It was pitch black already, despite only 4 PM, with lights only coming from the sidewalk lamps. Nonetheless, I booked a room via Airbnb already and had internet connection from my UK phone number so I won’t have to bother worrying about getting lost. It’s a small, cosy, typical Scandinavian room located uphill that I can reach with a small walk down the road where the church is.

I decided to call it a day and work on my then upcoming thesis from my room for the rest of the night. Beforehand, I discovered that there is a Joker (Norwegian supermarket chain) around 3 minutes from my place that I decided to take a walk despite the risk being drenched in the rain (imagine battling with the rain when it’s around 0 degrees). It was a homey type of supermarket. Various produce (especially canned food, because it’s Norway) humbly stacked on the stainless steel racks. On the other hand, fresh fishes and other sea products displayed proudly inside freezers, which ultimately caught my attention. Where else in this world that you can get fresh salmon for only approximately £1?

When I headed to pay for the groceries, the clerk gave me a long glance at myself before proceeding to complete the transaction process. I was wondering if people in Honningsvåg never really meet someone from tropical countries like myself? Or perhaps he was just admiring my melanin-packed skin? God only knows.

I quickly ran back home and had a simply fried soy sauce salmon for dinner. Accompanied with some few episodes of Indonesian fan-subbed Doraemon series, I wrote some few iterations for my thesis. Glad to be productive even though my body didn’t agree to be so. I guess it’s all because the internet connection was light-speed that time, reaching as fast as 5 MB/s. Fast enough to stream, browse, and download some torrented films for further uses simultaneously. I quickly fell asleep once I felt (extremely) satisfied with my thesis writing progress.

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I woke up at 9 the next day. It’s always been considered late for waking up during this time, but not when you’re in Honningsvåg. When I glanced to the cold grim world of the outside, it was the same darkness I saw last night. I didn’t need to be in a rush for my plan to see the sunrise as the sun will not show up until it’s around 10.30 AM. I slowly got up from the bed and head for a morning warm shower. I have always been a late-night shower person rather than a morning shower, but I guess in Honningsvåg, things can easily be turned upside down with no apparent reasons.

Feeling refreshed, I got ready with 3 layers of clothing and head outside. It was 3 degree outside. A typical November in Northern Norway, before the temperature plummets into something below the freezing point later on the same month. The air was extremely crisp. I had the mind that it must be a privilege to live in such a place (especially as someone suffering from asthma as I do). The small river near the house that I walked past chimed its tranquil rhythm, breaking the silence of Honningsvåg morning. For the first time ever, I felt extremely comfortable being present in such a situation.

I walked longer to a row of houses. The houses in Finnmark are completely different from the rest of Norway, as I observed and as I read during my visit to the Folk Museum at Oslo. They typically use vertical sidings for its exterior wall and metal or steel materials for the roof (thank you The Sims for this knowledge), perhaps simply for the sake of keeping everyone inside warm. There are no sidewalks in Honningsvåg, and I think it’s fair enough, as cars are incredibly rare to pass the roads in the city.

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I continued my journey to the waterfront area of Honningsvåg by walking down the Sjøgata road. It was the first time during that day I finally saw another human presence in this so-called solitary city. They’re mostly fishermen either getting ready for their catch or finishing their jobs already and call it a day (I can’t really recall what they did during that time). Despite living in such grim polar environment, people waved good morning greetings to each other, including me. Perhaps that’s the only thing that at the very least could warm them up, eh?

The harbour was packed with boats and ships, mostly owned by the fishermen. I once read that you can go on crab fishing nearby with the help of the locals; something that perhaps I could do for the next visit here (typing this as I cross my finger). I wasn’t lucky enough to encounter a giant, luxurious cruise ship, which regularly stops at Honningsvåg harbour for a short period of time. It wasn’t a problem though, as seeing the magnificent spectacle of Honningsvåg marina satisfied me enough.

The area also the site where Nordkapp museum is located. I was in a tight schedule (and me being an amateur strategist) that time due to I have to be at the pier for the sunrise, so I omitted the museum visit for the next visit to Honningsvåg (can I get an amen for that?). Without further ado, I walked for the pier to welcome the super late sun in the north. The time was 10.30 AM.

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When the sun is finally high enough, I saw the fjords surrounding the cities turning into red, something similar to the canyons of Arizona. The most outstanding sight that I saw that day is the hill just behind the city was shimmering, followed by the chirps of birds and the sea water beautifully reflecting the city like a giant enchanted mirror that will take you to the other world. Indeed, it’s otherworldly. I was there for the whole 20 minutes. The longest ever I found myself being in a meditative state.

On the way back home to start packing my bags and catch the next bus back to Alta, I unconsciously took my phone out and picked up a song from Spotify. It’s Belinda Carlisle’s ‘Heaven is a Place on Earth’. I blasted out the sound of the music through my earphone and skipped a bit to match the rhythm of the song with my footsteps.

Conceivably, indeed, heaven is manifested into diverse places on earth. It is wrapped underneath something called “the unknown”, waiting to be discovered. I spent 24 years of my life in search of happiness and satisfaction, and I am overjoyed to finally know that the way to achieve that is to discover more places and to banish the fear of the unknown.

As I look back to see Honningsvåg for the last time before leaving, it was sunset despite being only noon. The daylight could be incredibly short during the beginning of the winter, and it will gradually getting shorter and shorter until it’s Polar Night, the time where the sun will not show up for some period. This is how people used to live in Arctic Circle. It’s absolutely unpredictable, far from what I used to live in for the first 23 years of my life.

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Cheers for more spontaneous trips and being incredibly insane when it comes to travelling.