The Japanese Lover

Title: The Japanese Lover
Author: Isabel Allende
Translated from Spanish by: Nick Caistor & Amanda Hopkinson
Published: November 2015
322 pages

Let's welcome Isabel Allende's latest fiction, The Japanese Lover. A story about two fascinating women with their dreadful experiences and everlasting dreams. 

The story takes place at a nursing home in San Francisco. Irina Brazili, a 23-year-old immigrant from Eastern Europe, inexperienced but delightful to have the job in managing the retired folks. Irina's favorite resident is an elegant woman named Alma Belasco, who has recently come to Lark House under somewhat mysterious circumstances. Alma always drives her tinny car by herself. She completely ignores all traffic regulations. Where does she go? Who is sending her those letters and bouquet??? 

Alma was originally from Polland. In 1939 when Polland fell under the shadow of the Nazis and the world went to war, young Alma was sent by her parents to live with her aunt and uncle in US. During her childhood, she became best friend with a Japanese boy, Ichimei Fukuda, the son of the family's Japanese gardener, and between them a tender love blossomed. 

As usual Allende is a master storyteller in mixing a romance with historical background. This time she delivers a romantic love that endures throughout lifetimes. Showing that friendship and love can become more profound from a distance. 

Get ready to move back and forth from present to past and vice versa in order to get deep insight about key characters and the layers of experience that make each of them who he or she is. 

At 73, Isabel Allende is still fascinating. I love most of her characters in the books and also the plot that she created. When President Obama presented Allende with the Medal of Freedom last year, he put it well: "Her novels and memoirs tell of families, magic, romance, oppression, violence, redemption--all the big stuff. But in her hands, the big became graspable and familiar and human." 

Weekend Getaway: Villatel Salse, Bandung

Out of the blue I just felt the urge for visiting Bandung. The different Bandung, not its malls or Factory outlets. The peaceful Bandung with its breathtaking views. After browsing here and there, I finally decided to go to Dago Pakar. The place is popular for its beautiful spots. You can drop by at Taman Hutan Raya Djuanda, Selasar Sunaryo and its cafe, Kopi Selasar, or just visit any random cafe since most of the places having great view with its fresh air.  

We stayed at Villatel Salse at Dago Giri. Villatel is a Villa Hotel while 'Salse' is from Sundanese which means 'santai' (relax). This hotel was just open for several months. It has 20 rooms with its beautiful surrounding. You will find yourself embracing everything around the place. Located in the middle of the rain forest, with the sound of the river in front of your room, non-stop animals hymn and fresh air, you just feel something magical here. Totally recharged and fulfilled. 

Villatel Salse is managed by Lawangwangi which already known for its Creative Art Space and Cafe with a view where everything is truly instagrammable. Sometimes  it's even used for taking pre-wedding pictures. And I guess they applied all their creativity into their hotel. No wonder why Villatel Salse and its surrounding are so artistic. The interior, exterior, and all stuff seem already designed wholeheartedly. Everything is unique. 

Villatel Salse also completed with a happening cafe called Warung Salse. Similar as its hotel, Warung Salse will also make you fall for its place, food and most importantly--its affordable price.   

Back to Jakarta with a full heart. This place is such a heavenly view. A food for soul. 

Hymn for the Weekend

Embracing our last weekend. Nothing was extraordinary actually, just simple happiness that usually we take it for granted, such as:

credit to Wikipedia
  • Been a while not watching any war movie but reading lots of positive comments about 13 Hours, Secret Soldiers of Benghazi really made me curious. Furthermore it's based on true event. As we know that Benghazi is one of the most dangerous cities in the world (it's even getting horrible everyday with the ISIS activities and everything), this was a story about how US Embassy in Benghazi was attacked by terrorists and they had to survive within 13 critical hours. Finished watching the movie and felt stunned. Sad to see the ruin of a (used to be) beautiful city, children on the street, brutality, insecurities and touched by the deep conversation among the characters in the movie. What's the point of a war? Why should I die here? and many other haunting questions.
Credit to Wikipedia
  • Next, need to adjust  the gloomy feeling a bit therefore I took the girls to watch Disney's latest movie, a remake of 1967 movie, The Jungle Book. Since Najla just finished reading the book for her school task so watching the book alive was really something for her. She said she got new insight to be put in her book review. The movie itself is super awesome. Highly recommended. Beautiful setting, the rain forest, the animals, the story line, the songs and everything there are just too good to be true. Kids will definitely love it while even adults will easily fall for this masterpiece. 
  • Moving on to books, just finished reading two books. One is, "A Spool of a Blue Thread written by Anne Tyler. Bought this book since it's said as the receiver of Pulitzer Prize and so far this award never fails me. However there is always the first time for everything, I don't know I felt tired reading this book and kept wondering when will be the climax? But it seems it's just a story about a family. A quite long (and boring) family story with its ups and downs. I don't find anything extraordinary. After struggling hard and skipping several pages, finally I consider myself finished with it. Not my lucky day.
  • But there is always a rainbow after heavy rain, yep…I found Isabel Allende's latest book, The Japanese Lover, and I know Allende would cheer me up. Again she delivered her masterpiece. I'll write separate written review for this excellent book.
  • To sum it up, as a tea addict, I am happy to have several special tea from different parts of the world given by my best friends. My favourite now is chai tea that I bought in a small shop along the Vatican City. I thought it's an Italian tea but after I checked the box, it's said that it's a product made in Hamburg, Germany. Originating in India, Masala Chai or also called chai tea (chai or cha means tea) a flavoured tea beverage made by brewing black tea with a mixture of aromatic Indian spices and herbs, such as: cinnamon, cloves, ginger, etc. Sipping a cup of this chai tea after one long hectic day is still somewhat heaven. You can mix it with milk to make a perfect chai tea latte.
  • And one more thing, I got the title of this post from Coldplay's latest song featuring Beyonce, Hymn for the Weekend. The song and the video clip are EPIC. It's taken in India. Check the video here

14 Magical Years

Marriage is 

a relationship in which one is always right 


the other is the husband…hahaha

Happy 14th wedding anniversary!!!

We are definitely Mr. Right and Mrs. (always) Right

Luxembourg, a Wonderful Little Country

On my way to Frankfurt, Germany, I dropped by at this tiny country, Luxembourg. Bordered among Belgium, France and Germany. These neighbour countries affect Luxembourg in many ways, from the language (there are three official languages: Luxembourgish, German, French), culture, food and others.

I joined a walking tour with a local guide (who was a very nice lady with a great sense of humour) to explore this awesome place. Luxembourg is rich with its fortress, castles, historical building, valley, forest, and nature park. No wonder it's listed as UNESCO cultural heritage. 

A tiny place with magical touch. Its breathtaking view will leave you speechless.   

One of the things that I adore here was when we found a Chinese restaurant with buffet package. Dear God, after getting tired with Western food, this Chinese food was totally heaven. Although the price is a bit pricey (12 euro for a complete buffet) but we could live with that. All good thing has its price.

My guide said that everything is expensive in Luxembourg therefore many young people move to other neighbour countries. Lots of people who live in here are hired by the European Union (EU). Yes, Luxembourg is one of the three official capitals of the EU. Since EU has 28 members that consists of 24 languages therefore many translators and interpreters are definitely needed.