Travelogue: 2018 in Review

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

I was planning to write an apology introduction for being so silent in here, (unfortunately, this is my fifth and last post of the year) but I decided I didn't have to. If you were wondering why though, I can honestly say that I got caught up with a lot of unexpected changes of life in the first quarter of the year, which eventually lead us to the present day. Maybe these changes had affected the way I open up, and sort of taught me that it's enough to keep things just for myself. Memories of new people I've met, new places I've gone to, new spices for my taste bud; treating them as they were my safe haven.

2018 has been the year of many first/s and trying to figure things out in a lot of aspects. On May, my first photo book called In Transit: 23 got published by Kamboja Press. On July, I attended my first photojournalism training in India. On September, I had my first exhibition and sold some of my risograph prints. On a glance, I don't have any reason to be ungrateful for 2018 which has given me so many new opportunities. But the in-between has also been tough: new living condition, an absence of a figure, many failed applications followed by endless nights of self-doubt, and the list goes on. I don't know how many times I've heard this, but where did the time go? I really wonder.

This year's travelogue consists of my trip to India, a camping trip to Situgunung, Mt. Merbabu, and Bali.
I hope you enjoy the celebratory of my intimate moments! (prompts is from The Moon Lists, as usual)

India | July

My trip to India was actually a birthday treat for myself to attend a one-week photojournalism workshop in Kolkata. The trip also marks my third time celebrating a birthday in a foreign country inadvertently and my first time to actually go somewhere new to learn. I was anxious before the trip because all I've heard about India is that it is not an easy country to navigate. I was there for three weeks in total followed by an extended trip to Varanasi, Agra, and Rajasthan with my four other friends who came to visit.

Kolkata, West Bengal

Formerly known as Calcutta, it was India's capital under the British Raj until 1911. The city is the birthplace of modern Indian literature and artistic thought of Indian nationalism. While it is inhabited by mostly Bengali, the city is also home to other community such as Jewish, Chinese, and Anglo-Indian.  My impression of the people is that they have made great efforts to preserve Indian culture. You can see it from the grand colonialism architecture, art galleries, bookshops, preservation programs, and festivals.

day out: I arrived one day early before the workshop begins and decided to explore the city with my flatmate, Ha from Hanoi. Luckily, she has been to India before so while I was still in pure adjustment mode, we managed to do so much in a day. We had lunch and my first lassi in Park Street, went to see an old bookstore in College Street, had a glass of coffee at the old Indian Coffee Shop (it used to be a place for Bengali famous writers such as Tagore to have discussion on literature), explored the Mullick Ghat flower market, immersed our selves in the charming back alleys of Kumortulli (a manmade sculpture neighbourhood), and ended our evening chatting near the ghat until it rains quite heavily.

creative act: The workshops had given me chances to explore myself on a more personal level. Since we have to work on a photo story throughout the week under the mentorship of a photojournalist, I learned a lot about resilient and being respectful. Often times, I was so focused on wanting to get good pictures, while the truth is as Maggie Steber said, "No one owes you a story and it's never about us". Her words encouraged me to embrace the process and rethink on how I approach photography.

surprise: a French bakery in Kolkata, four slices of cakes, candles, my four best friends sang happy birthday while I was still trying to balance my body carrying a 45 L carry on and a backpack on the front, a simple wish to get through the next 12 days in a safe journey.

encounter: a Chinese family that lives in the same building as an Indian Missionary School. They were my second contact while doing the photo story and I've never imagined being so welcomed. It was a memorable bout of nostalgia over a morning Chai and Puri we've shared together every time I knocked on their door. When we part our ways in the train station, I couldn't help but cry. Knowing that they have so little but still give us so much touched me. I was relieved that my Indonesian friends had a chance to meet them, even just for a few hours.

Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

Varanasi has a charm that appeals to me as some sort of magical. Tuktuk never stop honking, there are more cows than cars, pilgrims come from all around the country to pay respect to mother earth as well as cremate their loved ones in The Ganges. While walking near the banks, I found myself in a rhythm I've never felt before. If given any chance to return back to India, I'd never hesitate to choose Varanasi as my first stop.

surprise: After a 13 hours train ride in Doon Express, people scattered us aggressively, offering a ride to town which according to them were flooding (which was a pure scam!). Apparently, the city has a strict no cars policy after we reach the city center. So it was another 30 minutes of dragging our luggage through the muddy and unbearable heat trying to find our homestay (we ended up made an impromptu booking at a new hotel).  Pilgrims were singing while marching to the temple, incense was burning, cows were laying around, all my senses were alive, it was intense.  

proportion: Despite being known as one of the most polluted rivers in the world, being cremated in the banks was the only way to reach eternity for the Hindus. We went to the cremation ghat, watched the Ganga Aarti ceremony at night from a boat, and woke up as early as 6AM to find a line of pilgrims doing a morning prayer. It literally never stopped. The real-life scene near the banks of The Ganges was all too nostalgic with Hotel Salvation movie that I've watched months prior to this trip.

art experience: An encounter with Shiva Linga (penis symbol made of marble) was everywhere in the small alleys of Varanasi. It didn't seem obvious at first, but when you pay attention, they were everywhere. People decorated it with flowers, pay respect and ask for a blessing by touching it. Turns out, it is a symbol of the power of birth.


We rent a car and went on a road trip from Agra to Rajasthan (Jaipur - Jodhpur - Udaipur). This is where our eyes were spoiled with beautiful manmade architectures. Its palaces and forts are reminders of the many kingdoms that vied for the region. Each of the city that we visited has its own charm that distinguishes one from the other. In terms of finding things in a good bargain; you don't want to miss Udaipur for the painting as well as Jodhpur and Jaipur for block printing textiles and rug.

new object: an indigo rug that costs less than $30, a beautiful indigo dress, a block printed vest, another indigo pants, and a classic Indian dress. Jodhpur somehow brought the wildest indigo dreams in me.

surprise: Just when we thought, there could be no way of saving money while we keep visiting palaces and forts in Rajasthan (the admission tickets to both were our biggest spending). An evening visit to Jal Mahal, the water palace in the middle of the Man Sagar Lake brought a new perspective. There's no admission fee, no barricade, the sidewalk was turned into a night market, people were waiting patiently to watch the sunset, and some were throwing rocks into the lake. It was quite magical.

time alonea short escape from dinner, sitting on the stairs overlooking Lake Pichola in Udaipur. Beaming of lights from the bridge really washed away all the tiredness from this journey. I took the time to stay silent, absorbed all the quietness from the city of lake that reminds me a lot of Venice.

encounter: We met a young fella named Dhananjay while roaming through narrow alleys of Jodhpur. He kindly took us to his rooftop for an exceptional view of the blue city. His mother served us chai and made us feel very welcomed. After we left, to our surprise, this guy was following us until we reached the main street and asked, "Can you give me 200 rupees?". We weren't really expecting that gesture, because we thought our meeting was accidental, but we gave him the money anyway.

night outon our last night, we decided to spend the rest of our rupees for a fancy dinner near the lake. Gorgeous view of magenta sunsets, classical music, wine, it's hard to think that we were actually in the middle of deserted land of Rajasthan state. After much anticipation, we all agreed that the food was actually not that great. But at least we've got a view and a decent picture of our youth.

Jaipur | Pink City

Jodhpur | Blue City 

Udaipur | Venice of the East

Situgunung | September

We went for a one-night camping trip to watch Float to Nature, an annual concert held by Float band which took place in Situgunung National Park. I've always liked listening to Float' songs and have enjoyed seeing their live session as well. So the idea of watching their intimate concert surrounded by lush of greens and (much needed) canned food won me over.

nature: There was a feeling of blissfulness, whenever I dip my toes on the natural streams accompanied by a beautiful orchestra of nature.

art experience:  Seeing one of your favorite folk bands perform just a few meters from you. In a teepees stage, under the stars and pouring rain. You began to get obsessed toward one particular song that you haven't felt fond of before. Then you start seeing them in a more personal way; they were wearing the same sandal as you, throwing classic jokes, even shared their vulnerability (every artist common fear of not being good and productive enough).

time with a friend(taken from my notes) We remember moments, not things. Like how the sound of a waterfall played a trick on us, the midnight hunger that strikes when we were already tucked inside our sleeping bag, cruising on a bamboo boat while sipping a cup of hot tea, listening to a vegan podcast, and endless conversations while on the road. Thank you Epin & Jo!

Mt Merbabu | October

This marks my most spontaneous trip ever. It was Saturday night and I casually asked my friend his whereabouts during a stressful deadline weekend. He told me he was at my other friend's house, about to go grocery shopping for a hiking trip to Mount Merbabu on Monday. The next thing I knew, I bought a train ticket to Solo, joined the grocery shopping, and bought a pair of hiking shoes.

proportionKnowing that we've hiked for 10 hours and were still nowhere near to the camping ground really put me down. In the darkness, I experienced severe anxiety that unfortunately led me to a major panic attack. I cried and even begged my friends to continue the journey without me at some point. I realized it was the quietness of the jungle and have no vision in the dark that scared me the most, I felt helpless. Luckily my friends were very supportive, David even lifted my carry on until we reached the camping ground at 9 PM. Looking back, anything worse than that could happen to me that day.

surprise: On the morning of the summit and with zero supply of water, two of very stubborn friends (me and Tefan) decided to hike with only a handful of energy from a snack bar. Turns out, the view was even more breathtaking. Mt. Merbabu is located in the middle of five other volcanoes, so we were stunned by the view. I felt like floating above the clouds, literally.

new idea: Despite having a limited supply of water and going through such a tough trek. If there's one thing worth mentioning, it taught us about resilience and appreciation towards the smallest thing.

time with a friend: I first met Indra, Tefan, David, and Monica as my colleagues at a makerspace. It was my last full time job before going as a freelancer. Looking back, that place was indeed one of a kind and I'm forever grateful for a beautiful friendship with them. We might go our separate ways yet this trip brought us closer.

Bali | November

A long overdue holiday with our large extended family. Wearing a matching blue t-shirt, eating bacon pancake for breakfast, nasi babi guling for lunch, sunset on a beach, and being tucked inside a blanket by 10 PM. It was a much-needed quality time.

nature: Watching my mother and her sisters enjoying the sunset on Petitenget beach, all barefoot, no makeup. I sat there on the shore while keeping an eye of their belongings. "There is a melancholy too, in watching a generation of my aunts and uncles age.", this line from Mohsin Hamid really speaks volume to me.

story: A wonderful thing to watch my 2-year-old nephew, Edward experiencing his first beach day and swimming lesson. From the look of his face, I could tell that he's not fond of having sands between his toes. But luckily the swimming lesson went well.

surprise: Visiting Wayan Suartana's new guesthouse in Bangli. My first encounter with Wayan was in the new year of 2017 when I signed up for his herb walk tour and Balinese lunch experience. This time, I've seen tremendous growth in his family business as he added two beautiful accommodations and an open kitchen. We went there for lunch and I felt grateful to be able to share that remote and local experience with my family.

Thank you 2018

For giving me so much new wisdom through the people that I met along the way
For teaching me to toughen up through a series of rejections
For guiding me while I dive into new experiences
For reminding me to slow down

With the year coming closer to an end, I would like to wish you, who have read until this very part, a great, fulfilling year ahead. Be kind!

Fransisca Angela,
25 December 2018


  1. lucu ya si dhananjay dengan keramahtamahannya ngajak ke rooftop-nya trus dijamu ibunya, trus akhirnya malah minta 200rupees, hahaha...
    satu lagi, beneran sisca nangis pas naik gunung malem²? pengalaman yang 'indah' dikenang ya pada akhirnya mah...
    btw, untuk satu blog post ini, menghabiskan berapa roll film?

    great highlights story of 2018. Semoga hanya akan lebih baik di 2019 nya yaaa... juga semoga ada waktu buat sempetin lebih rajin ngeblog,hehe... *i wish*

  2. Oh how I wish I had the gut (and money) to do a trip spontaneously. My heart always longs to travel somewhere... But maybe not to a mountain, because I'm a wimp when it comes to hiking.

    Always looking forward to your next post, Sisca, and happy belated New Year!



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