Sidemen, a Village in the Valley

Going to the mountain area offers a nice variation, especially because I currently live so close to the beach. But I used to wonder where to go that doesn’t take that much travel time, until a local friend of mine recommended me Sidemen village. 

Sidemen is located in East Bali, just about an hour drive from Sanur. It’s a hidden valley not far from Mt. Agung, and it is a rice-growing area so you’ll definitely can enjoy the view of beautiful rice terraces. It truly is a  peaceful place, perfect for relaxing and going away from the busy life in the city.

 

 

Not just the rice fields, Sidemen has the beautiful views of the mountain also.

Not just the rice fields, Sidemen has the beautiful views of the mountain also.

If you like quiet time like me, Sidemen is the place as not so many tourists know about it. I sometimes wonder that perhaps Sidemen is like Ubud back in 10 years ago. During the day you can hear birds and roosters, while in the evening the “music” changes into the sound of insects and frogs that live in the rice fields.

We stayed at Sawah Indah Villa, and it was a very nice experience. The staffs were very attentive, and they have a restaurant also. The food was just okay, but at least it’s readily available in case you don’t feel like going out to find places to eat. What I like the most about this place was it’s located by the rice fields owned by the locals so you can still see the farmers ploughing the field, spreading the seeds, and so on. The place was private, yet it didn’t feel exclusive or cut off from its surrounding. 

Sidemen

View from my room at Sawah Indah Vila. I saw a family of farmers working on the field diligently throughout the day here.

Infinity pool at Sawah Indah Villa

Infinity pool at Sawah Indah Villa

Even though Sidemen is located in higher elevation, the air is not cold especially compared to places like Bedugul. We spent the night watching the full moon outside. In the morning, we decided to do a little hiking around the village to see the village life. Parents took their children to school, farmers going to their fields, and some open their small kiosk. It’s another day at this small, beautiful village.

Thanks Sidemen for the nice getaway. I hope that you stay as peaceful and as green as it is right now for many, many years to come.

Dim Sum at Sanur Harum

Like many of my go-to restaurants in Sanur, I first found out about Sanur Harum from my sister. She recommended Sanur Harum as the best dim sum food in Sanur. At first, I was a bit skeptical because Sanur Harum is the restaurant of Sanur Paradize Plaza hotel, located right inside the hotel (base floor). And you know, hotel’s food is often nicely presented but failed in taste. Plus, it’s an all-you-can-eat dim sum! Can it be really that good?

But turns out there’s no reason to doubt Sanur Harum’s dim sum at all! As you can see in my pictures below, the presentation is nicely done. The taste? No question, all I can say is it’s Chinese and Asian culinary experience at its best! You won’t feel that you are eating mass-production food like you’ll often taste at other all-you-can-eat restaurants.

The rate is currently Rp.110.000,- (around 10 USD) per person. The dim sum is only available for lunch, starting from 11am to 3pm (with last order at 2.30pm). It’s really perfect for slow eating, you can go there to enjoy a long lunch and keep ordering until you’re full! The place is quiet and spacious, so there’s no rush at all. My record was when I went there with my hubby; we were really hungry and we ordered 16 types of dish including dessert! After that, we got rid of the guilty feeling by taking a long walk at Sanur Beach :)

I’m glad Sanur Harum exist… to me, it’s one of the thing that makes Sanur special.

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Shrimp wrapped in nori paper. My fave ever!!

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Nicely presented, right?

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“Money bag” guarantee! :)

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Want something fresh? Try their jellyfish salad!

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I forgot the name, but anything wrapped in bacon tasted good! :)

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Their Kailan is never overcooked!

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Try this first before getting freaked out knowing that its chicken feet!

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If you’re ready for dessert, here’s mango pudding

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Sanur Harum is in Sanur Paradise Plaza Hotel, Jalan Hang Tuah 46 Sanur, Bali, Sanur, Bali, Indonesia
+62-361-281781 (you don’t have to reserve).

Nusa Lembongan: Trip to the Other Side

On clear days, I can easily see Nusa Penida and perhaps a bit of Nusa Lembongan from Sanur beach. When I just moved to Sanur, I often wonder what’s in these islands. Are the roads all flat like they are in Sanur? Are there supermarkets there or do they transport things from Bali? And how would the island of Bali look like from where they are? Last July, to answer my curiosity and also to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary, my husband and I decided to cross over to the other side of Sanur – Nusa Lembongan.

We catched the speed boat from the beach in Jalan Hang Tuah side. There are plenty of speed boat companies to choose from, but the prices are the same (Rp. 250.000 for locals, return trip). It only took half an hour to get to Nusa Lembongan – half an hour of jumping up and down against the big waves! I heard that this happens during high tides (generally during full moon or 2 weeks after full moon), so if you get sea sickness easily perhaps it’s better to do the trip during low tide as the waves are quieter.

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Cottages among the tree – getting closer to the island

Getting close to the island, you can see the cottages between the trees. The view really reminds me to the view that I saw during boat trips in Thousand Island or Lake George, back in the US. We got off from the boat, not sure how to get to our hotel. Good thing the boat trip also include transfer to the hotel, using this pick-up truck (turns out this is the only type of car that the island has!)

I booked my hotel with Agoda, but unfortunately the manager forgot to save a room for us and the hotel was fully booked! The good news is the manager /owner also owns other hotel, so we were transferred there. Not bad because we got better room at the beach front of Jungut Batu village! The room has a private porch, and we got an amazing sunset view!

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Sunset from our hotel’s room

We quickly found out that the roads aren’t flat here in Nusa Lembongan. To get to other beaches (Mushroom Bay, Coconut Bay, Devil’s Tear etc) you would have to climb up and down the hill. It took about half an hour for us to get to the Mushroom Bay. The walking was nice – we passed through a wood and a local village – but going up was challenging. I guess it would be better to rent the motorbikes, although I wonder how the owners keep track of their motorbikes since none of them have license plates! Yes, I guess this is still possible because the number of vehicles is still very limited in this small island. Plus we also didn’t see any police or police station, so I guess you don’t have to worry about fines.

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Pick up truck: the only type of car available in the island

What I really love about Nusa Lembongan is the fact that we can just snorkel by the beach! I saw plenty of colorful fishes in different shapes and sizes, without having to take a boat. Of course if you want more amazing snorkeling experience, there are plenty of boat trips to take you to several spots where you can snorkel or dive.

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View towards Jungut Batu village

We had our anniversary dinner at the Sandy Bay restaurant. You can call them for reservation and they will arrange a pick up for you (yes, with a pick-up truck). It was a nice ride, though; we got to see more of the village within the island. At times it can be so dark, because the roads have no light. The restaurant is by the beach but we got there after sunset so we can only hear the waves – we can’t see much because it’s already dark. 

Back to the hotel, we spent the evening sitting by the beach – enjoying the quiet village while looking at the twinkling lights in Sanur and Candidasa. It was a very relaxing trip, and now I know how Bali looks like from the other side.

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View from Mushroom Bay

 

Massimo’s Gelato

One thing I really love doing on the weekends is visiting Massimo restaurant to enjoy their gelato. Massimo is an Italian restaurant in Sanur, and I’m lucky enough to live within a walking distance from it (hence the frequent trip with my dog, Hazel). Massimo is known for their superb brick oven pizza, and of course also for their gelatos.

Ready for some gelato?

Ready for some gelato?

You can have the gelato with various sizes of dishes, and also with cones. The cones come in three flavors: chocolate, pistachio (green), and sugar (the regular one). Prices are very reasonable, starting from Rp. 20.000 (2US$) for two generous scoops. Very affordable pleasure! I can assure you that the price and quality is the best compared to other gelato places in Sanur.

So what choices of gelato that they have? A lot, and they continuously invent something new! They have the sweet ones such as chocolate, coffee and hazelnut (among others), and also the sour ones such as blueberry yogurt, kiwi, raspberry, and so on. The display is also very interesting, and it’s difficult to make up your mind when you are standing in front of the counter! When that happened I usually go for my default choices: hazelnut and pistachio (you can find real pistachios inside!).

In Albany there is my favorite bakery that sells a very good gelato also (Chrisan at the Lark Street). I’m very happy that I found a comparable one here in Bali! Thanks to my sister for introducing me to Massimo’s gelato, I’m really hooked up. And thanks, Massimo. With you, my love affair with good gelato continues…

Ricefield Reflection

Rice terrace 1

It is so easy to forget that Bali is not just about beautiful beaches; the island also has wonderful lakes, waterfalls, and mountains too! And up in the north, there are some rice terraces with breathtaking views! Here I’m taking you to Jatiluwih, a village located in Tabanan regency.

Tabanan is the area that has the largest production of rice in Bali, with Jatiluwih as the main supplier. Of course this is not enough to meet the consumption of rice for the whole island, let alone the country. We Indonesian are one of the main rice eaters in the world; rice is our main food staple and most of us eat rice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Jatiluwih, UNESCO's World Heritage Site

Jatiluwih, UNESCO’s World Heritage Site

The puzzle is this: if the demand for rice in this country is really that high, then why Indonesia is one of the world’s leading rice importers? Why don’t people want to be rice farmers? There are many different explanations for that, but the definite one is because being a farmer is not beneficial.

First, the fertilizer is expensive and it is not subsided by the government (it used to, decades ago). Second, there is always the risk of crop failure due to the dry season, pests, and so on. Imagine that you’ve worked so hard every day, invested your time and energy, but yield nothing in the end. Third, rice cannot be planted today and harvested the day after. It takes months of daily hard work under the sun in order to be able to eventually harvest the rice, if nothing goes wrong.

As we watched the lush green landscape, my husband pointed out that the farmers need money every day; to buy food, to pay for their children’s school tuition, to buy medicine for the sick child, etc. But they can only have money every five or six months if they’re harvesting, and not to mention that they would have to pay the land owner for letting them work on the land.

For a moment, I was complaining to myself. My husband is once again ruining my ‘tourist mood’ by telling me all this. I wished that I can be just another tourist, merrily trekking the rice terraces and taking photos of the farmer’s unique caping (cone shaped cap). Because what can I do, really, to make a difference for the farmers? I feel small and helpless.

But then I thought, empathy is such an important feature in social lives. Often, it is what drive people to do meaningful act of kindness to others, a ‘vaccine’ against me-first attitude. Yes, I may not be able to change anything by caring or thinking about the farmers, but at least it is better than living in a pure ignorance to their challenges or suffering.

So if you ask me to tour you to Jatiluwih one day, I may start talking about the grim reality faced by the farmers there. Please don’t be annoyed. Sometimes, I think, tourists like us also need a touch of reality.

People trekking the rice terrace, this one located in Tegalalang (near Ubud, Bali)

People trekking the rice terrace, this one located in Tegalalang (near Ubud, Bali)

Realizing my Paradise

“I bet these people never realize that they live in such a beautiful place,” says aroonh82 or whatever name of the person whose comment I happen to read under a Youtube video, some years ago when I was still living in Albany. That day I was missing Holland’s parks, canals, trams, trains and all the familiar places. I then decided to spend my time watching videos people posted about some Holland cities, and that was when I bumped into that comment.

That random comment really struck me and that must be the reason why I still remember it after many years. What if I’m the one who live in that beautiful city and I was too preoccupied with life that I don’t even realize the beauty surrounds me? Or what if I was aware the beauty, but because it’s so accessible I became less appreciative? It is so easy to take things for granted.

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That man in the photo was reading his kindle all the way through this beautiful park in Albany NY. I wonder if he realized that he’s underneath a beautiful tree, that looks this pretty only in spring time.

Now that I’m living and working in Bali, I constantly remind myself of the same thing: that I’m blessed with another chance to live in such a beautiful place, and I should not be so immersed in all the daily routines that I forgot to appreciate it. “People fly from all over the world, spending their time and money just to be able to be here,” I keep telling myself. It’s just a shame if I can no longer be amazed by all the different colors of frangipanis, can no longer smell the fragrance of the incense that Balinese people burn to go with their offering, or can no longer hear the birds happily sing to welcome the morning.

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This is just one of the beautiful colors of frangipani, locally called jepun in Bali.

I don’t want to forget, I don’t want to be distracted. 

I want to be present, I want to be attentive.

That comment really was an eye opener, I owe that random person a thank you!

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Look at these beautiful canang (offering)! They go with the fragrant incenses. I took this photo in busy Ubud streets, I’m glad at that time my sis and I got the chance to actually admire these canangs. Wonder how many tourists missed these.

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Biking in Bali

RELIEVED! That’s how I felt when I first reached my office by bike. It was only my second day of work here in Bali and at that time I just came back from the US after living there for some years. I was not afraid that I’d be lost, but I realized I was not used to the traffic anymore.

It only takes about 30 minutes to bike from Sanur where I live to Renon, the area where my office is located. But I have to pass busy streets where people are rushing to their destinations with their aggressive cars and motorcycles!

It’s not just in Bali, really. Everywhere in Indonesia there are more and more cars and motorcycles, causing traffic jams in many places that used to be congestion free. It wasn’t like this when I left Indonesia about four years ago, and I can immediately feel the difference once I headed home from the airport on the day that I returned.

But in Bali, things are more complicated because there are not many options of reliable and affordable public transportation. There’s no city bus (to be fair there is one now, called Trans Sarbagita, but the routes are still very limited and it’s mostly aimed for tourism). The taxi is too expensive (for comparison, 15 minutes ride in Bali with metered taxi like Blue Bird will cost you approximately Rp. 28-30 thousand, while 15 minutes ride in Semarang with the same taxi will cost you less than half of that price). So of course, people use motorcycles a lot as an alternative.

If in Holland every person is said to have at least one bike, in Bali every family (including the lower income family) has at least one motorcycle. For example, my landlady has a family of three, but they own two motorcycles (three, if you count the old rusty one they parked next to my room).

It’s also very easy to get a motorcycle; with a down payment of as low as Rp. 100.000,- (10$), you can bring a motorcycle home. And of course, families are getting busier these days. Parents can’t always take their kids to school (and doh, there’s no school busses of course!). Solution: very young kids, as young as fifth or sixth graders, are hitting the small roads of Bali, riding their motorcycles with their school uniform without their helmet on.

You may wonder how the police let them get away with this. I also don’t know. Maybe the police also have kids who need to ride their own motorcycles to school? My friend told me that the police let them ride their motorcycles as long as they avoid busy or main roads, but I’ve seen these kids in busy Ngurah Rai bypass!

They are young and brave, but of course also careless and I don’t trust their judgment at all. But these kids are not the only ones who will make you feel nervous (or frustrated). There are many adults who just don’t follow directions, too pushy, or plain stupid. They are all over Balinese roads.

So there, these are the reasons why I felt really jumpy during my first couple of days biking to the office. I hate to feel this way and I never told anyone about this, because I’m afraid that they’ll see me as this annoying person who just came back from overseas and complained about everything in her country including the crazy traffic.

But the truth is, I need to readjust myself. And there’s nothing wrong about it. Yes, this is my home country, but it doesn’t mean I don’t need to readjust to it after living away from some time. For some people the readjustment is very quickly, some people need more time. Some people need to readjust to the climate, the food, the level of noise etc., and I happened to need to adjust to the traffic.

The good news is, after some weeks I can finally feel relaxed when biking in the city, although sometimes I’m still concerned about my safety especially when kids crossed me with their motorcycles. But biking is once again becoming an activity that I enjoy.

Helmet on, ipod on, let’s go!!

No, this was NOT the busy road that I was talking about. This was actually by the beach in Sanur, a very nice area to walk/bike around because no motorcycles are allowed here.

No, this was NOT the busy road that I was talking about. This was actually by the beach in Sanur, a very nice area to walk/bike around because no motorcycles are allowed here.

Update: More Heartbrand photo collection!!

In You Say Potato, I Say Potayto, I shared about how nice it is to find something similar in different settings. One of the things I love to see (and photograph) is how the Heartbrand logo is the same but called differently in different countries.

I’m happy to report that I’ve got more collections of it! One is from my recent work trip to the Philippines, and another one is courtesy of my sister Asti who recently traveled to Bangkok. Here they are:

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In the Philippines, it’s called Selecta!

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Mmm… Do you know what it’s called in Bangkok?

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Another Heartbrand in Bangkok. Good luck on reading it :)

Tentang Depresi dan Menghakimi

Minggu pagi kemarin ada berita mengejutkan saat saya membaca twitter feeds. CNN, Huffington Post dan banyak media besar lainnya menulis bahwa putra dari Pendeta Rick Warren bunuh diri. Setiap tindakan bunuh diri adalah sebuah tragedi, tapi berita ini sepertinya terasa lebih mengejutkan, terasa lebih tragis, khususnya buat komunitas Kristen.

Kita cenderung berpikir bahwa tindakan bunuh diri adalah suatu dosa yang tidak terampuni, yang dilakukan oleh orang yang hidupnya kosong atau tidak berpengharapan akan hari esok yang lebih baik. Setidaknya seperti itulah ajaran yang saya dapatkan dari khotbah-khotbah di gereja. Banyak pendeta yang senang menggunakan contoh bagaimana orang-orang ternama bisa sangat berkelimpahan secara materi di dalam hidupnya, tetapi tidak mememiliki hubungan dengan Tuhan sehingga merasa hidupnya kosong dan pada akhirnya bunuh diri. Banyak juga yang mengambil contoh bagaimana orang-orang bunuh diri karena tidak kuat menanggung tekanan hidup, dan mereka melakukannya karena tidak memiliki pengharapan kepada Allah.

Dari contoh-contoh seperti ini kita tanpa sadar jadi terbiasa menghakimi orang yang mengakhiri hidupnya. Bunuh diri itu dosa besar dan dilakukan oleh orang berdosa, titik. Jadi saat yang melakukannya adalah putra dari seorang pendeta penulis Purpose Driven Life yang sangat terkenal itu, kita terhenyak. Bukankah dengan memiliki orang tua pendeta sekaliber Rick Warren, almarhum memiliki akses lebih banyak untuk membangun kekuatannya di dalam Tuhan? Belajar dan tahu bahwa mengakhiri hidup itu berarti menyia-nyiakan karunia kehidupan yang Tuhan masih berikan?

Saya jadi teringat saat seorang teman yang saya kagumi mengakhiri hidupnya, hanya beberapa hari menjelang Natal 2010. Dia adalah teman saat bersekolah di Belanda dulu, seseorang yang sangat pintar, ramah dan punya banyak teman. Saat berita duka ini beredar lewat email di antara para alumni, banyak rekan yang dalam terkejutnya kemudian bertanya-tanya dan membuat pernyataan yang bernada menghakimi. Seorang teman lain yang mengenal almarhumah dengan lebih dekat akhirya tidak sabar, dan menjelaskan bahwa almarhumah bunuh diri bukan karena muak dengan hidup tetapi karena memiliki gangguan kejiwaan yang membuatnya rentan terhadap depresi dan pikiran-pikiran untuk bunuh diri.

Ini juga yang dialami oleh putra dari Pdt. Rick Warren. Dalam suratnya kepada jemaat di Saddleback Church, Pdt. Rick Warren menjelaskan bahwa almarhum sudah lama berjuang melawan penyakit ini. Sayangnya dalam satu episode depresi, akhirnya almarhum menyerah – setelah bertahan sekian lama.

Di Indonesia, pengetahuan tentang gangguan-gangguan kejiwaan masih sangat terbatas. Stigma terhadap mereka yang memiliki gangguan kejiwaan juga sangat kuat sehingga menghalangi penderita untuk mencari pengobatan. Dan dikala mereka mengambil jalan untuk mengakhiri penderitaan lewat bunuh diri, ada stigma lain yang juga melekat: bahwa mereka kurang tangguh, putus asa, tidak beriman, dll. 

Sekali lagi, setiap tindakan bunuh diri adalah suatu tragedi yang sebenarnya bisa dicegah. Bagian kita adalah berusaha belajar lebih banyak tentang gangguan-gangguan kejiwaan yang membuat orang rentan untuk bunuh diri, mengenal tindakan-tindakan pencegahan, dan berhenti menghakimi. Mungkin dengan perginya Matthew Warren, banyak orang yang jadi terdorong untuk belajar mengenali bentuk-bentuk gangguan kejiwaan tersebut. Dan saya juga berharap, banyak pendeta yang berhenti menggunakan contoh-contoh bunuh diri untuk mengilustrasikan berdosanya seseorang.

Sungguh, bukan bagian kita untuk menghakimi.

 

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Visiting Hogwarts

A few weeks ago I won a ticket to be a visiting muggle to the Hogwarts. Of course, Harry Potter  – the boy who lived – has long graduated from the school so I didn’t meet him, but still the visit was really interesting. I was granted permission to publish some public photos of the school that I gladly share with you in this post. So muggles, please join me in a quick tour of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry!

My journey to Hogwarts begins in this rotunda. There were doors at all sides of the rotunda, and if I pick the right door I should be able to find the Fat Lady painting.

Luckily, I found the right door that led me to the Fat Lady painting. I was given a secret password that sadly I can’t share with you. But I’m sure you know that if you have the Felix Felicis liquid, you should be able to make me tell you what the password was.

Yes, the password worked! The Fat Lady swung her picture backward so I could enter the Gryfindor’s Common Room. What you see above is one section of the Common Room. And oh, if you wonder what happen to the guy over there, yes, I think he was under Petrificus Totalus done by a prankster.

I was then led to the stairs, which surprisingly looked very modern. I was told that they are not going to reveal 100 percent of what Hogwarts looks like, so I guess they put a charm on the stairs to make it look like this.

Now let’s tour the 4 student houses in Hogwarts.

Look at those students entering the Gryfindor’s House! As I expected, out of the 4 dormitories in Hogwarts, the Gryfindor was the most alive!

This was one side of the entrance to the Hufflepuff House. By the way, those are brooms… which to the muggle eyes appeared as bicycles.

The next picture shows you one of the yards inside the Ravenclaw House. If you wonder where the students were, well… remember that the Ravenclaws tend to be academically motivated and talented students (the Sorting Hat almost assigned Hermione to the Ravenclaw because of this reason). Ravenclaw House prizes learning, wisdom, and intellect in its members. Thus, you can easily guess that the Ravenclaws are either in the library, labs, or in their classes – studying diligently.

For some reasons, I couldn’t enter the Slytherin House. I guess the dark spell was too strong for me. This was one of the entrances.

Other things I spotted at the school:

Hear No Lies. Tell No Lies.
Dolores Umbridge: Please, tell them I mean no harm.
Harry Potter: Sorry, Professor, but I must not tell lies.

Various kinds of Coat of Arms displayed on Hogwart’s wall.
Motto:
Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus
(Never Tickle a Sleeping Dragon).

Below is the entrance to the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom.

Next picture shows you the students entering the Muggle Studies classroom. They all dressed as muggles in this subject.
This shoe below belongs to a statue. Wonder why it was shiny? Turned out it was a portkey!
I rubbed the portkey and here I was, suddenly transported to Holland!
Crap, now I have to find the portkey to go back to Hogwarts!
The next picture was the location where I landed back from Holland. They no longer put me inside Hogwarts.

I guess this was the end of my magical tour.
Oh, in case you wonder, we the muggles called this school as Yale. But now you know that Yale is really… a Hogwarts!

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