Masks provided at Novotel Pekanbaru. We only spotted this during check-in. The next day, the box had disappeared.
Day 4 in Pekanbaru was our second-last day in the city and yes, we were panicking a little because of the dwindling amounts of rupiah in our wallets. We did go a little crazy in Matahari and the hypermarts. And we had not visited the money changer since it was a little elusive plus we had thought that since we were not paying any tour agency for day tours, we should have enough to last the whole 5 days in Pekanbaru. That’s also when I wondered if there is a departure tax at the Pekanbaru airport. There are exit taxes for other Indonesian cities, right? I can’t recall if it’s Batam or Bali or even both of these. But as I found out on Day 5, thankfully, there is no departure tax. All taxes should have been included in your flight ticket price already. *phew*
And Novotel did not impress me with what seemed like its over-emphasis on $$$. Guest comfort appeared to be rather low on their list of priorities. The first thing they requested was a deposit of 300,000rp and it was payable using cash or card. We didn’t want to hand over our cards for safety reasons. And 300K was a lot when we had been spending over our *ahem* budget. We asked if we could provide Singapore Dollars instead, and no, it was NOT accepted. So fine. I hand over 3 crisp 100,000 notes, fully expecting them to keep it in an envelope with my name on it and then return it to me upon checkout. That was wishful thinking on my part, I found.
Also, the hotel doesn’t offer currency exchange services. Alright, I guess I can still accept that. Then we were reminded that there was to be no durian or smoking within the room, or actually within various other areas in the hotel too, or else there would be a 1 million rupiah fine. And if you happen to lose your room card, please pay 50,000rp. And after that checklist of fines, the receptionist even forgot to return my passport. I wonder how that even happens! Thankfully, I was unfazed by their various fines (hello, we are from the ‘fine’ city called Singapore) and was just standing there waiting for her to stop talking and return me my passport.
By the way, breakfast at Novotel Pekanbaru is from 6am to 10am, at level 3. Make sure you’ve gotten your breakfast voucher during check-in. I’m not sure if there’ll be a fine if you lose it or forgot to claim one and then they say you’ve lost the slip. (@_@)
We stayed in Room 1202 at Novotel. At our previous hotel (Fox Harris), our room was 714, but the view was decidedly better there.
I’m not sure if this view is even worth mentioning…
But I have to say that Novotel Pekanbaru, or at least room 1202 that we were allocated, has the WORST bathroom design I have EVER seen. You can shower in FULL VIEW of your room mate.
Sure, you can pull down the blinds so the person in bed won’t be able to see you shower on this side. But if he/she is going to the toilet on the other side, there are no blinds on the other side so the person is STILL going to see you naked. It’s awkward whether you are dating, married, parent-and-child, siblings or even best friends. I’m not THAT open. And the last I checked, I have no apparent exhibitionist streak too.
So I had to issue various threats to my darling to not use the toilet while I was taking my shower. (@_@) I don’t even know why there has to be glass. It’s not even a freaking bathtub where I can soak in the bubbles while watching TV through the glass. It’s a standing shower, for goodness sake! Haiz.
Anyway, the hotel seems to be a nice place to have wedding events and all.
Interestingly, they don’t have level 4, 13 and 14. So perhaps this hotel is not REALLY 18+ storeys high. 😀 I didn’t know they are so pantang / superstitious. I’m perfectly OK with staying on level 4. 😀
And apart from the fines and my passport not returned to me till prompted, we also had to request for another toothbrush as the hotel provided just one toothbrush for a twin room. (@_@) I mean, my darling and I are close but not close enough to share toothbrushes. Assuming they didn’t mean to have us compromise on oral hygiene, and had purely forgotten to include two sets, then I have to say they aren’t paying much attention to detail, eh? That said, their toiletries are more-than-decent. Would take home a set if we had stayed for more than 1 night. Haha!
Novotel is located just across the road from Fox Harris but appears to be entirely different from its neighbor. For one, there’s a metal detector / scanner at the entrance to Novotel, together with a security officer. The interior is posh. And they are worlds apart in terms of the way guests are treated. At Fox, it is like you are among friends. I would stay at Fox Harris again in a heartbeat.
After checking into Novotel, we walked over to Mal Ciputra Seraya which is just next door and had a meal at Willton Cafe and Resto. We also tried to sit as far away from the eatery’s smoking corner as was possible. 😣
Willton has SG laksa, prata, etc, but I randomly ordered something called Tongseng Ayam + Nasi without even knowing what ‘tongseng’ is. And now Google tells me “Tongseng is an Indonesian goat meat, mutton or beef stew dish in curry-like soup with vegetables and kecap manis.” No wonder it was so tasty. His main was some chopped chicken with rice and egg, and that was delicious as well. It can be said that the food at Willton is not too salty. In fact, it’s seasoned just right. No wonder their tagline is “We’re Better”.
We returned to our hotel room after lunch and found that guests cannot even request for more mineral water bottles. Each room gets a maximum of 2 bottles. 🙄 So it appeared to us that this hotel is more expensive than Fox but Fox is way sweeter to guests. I think we got an additional 4 bottles there. Housekeeping staff at Fox are really sweet. Anyway, yes I know I know, save the earth by using less plastic, right? We found that there are water dispensers in the gym both at Fox Harris and at Novotel, so any time we needed water, we could fill our water bottles at the gym. Anyway, they are deserted most of the time.
Need water? Go to the gym!
You can see the pool from the gym. It looks rather small and people dining in the restaurant should be able to see you in your bikini. I do prefer Fox Harris’ indoor infinity pool. Sorry, this comparison is inevitable since they are located just across the road from each other and we stayed at both hotels during this trip. XD
Nobody uses the gym in Pekanbaru’s hotels, it seems.
My darling wanted to go fishing so we Google-d and found this place called Wisata Alam Mayang. Our Grab driver was surprised we knew about this place and asked us how we found out about this spot which usually only has locals visiting.
Cheeky schoolkid in the ticketing booth. The blue building nearby is supposed to be a haunted house attraction but it appeared to be shut that day and so kids took over the booth. 😀
On the way here, our Grab driver was coughing badly but he had a mask on. The aircon seemed to be blowing out hot air only too. Our usually short Grab trips are fine. But this longest one has to be entirely different. Murphy’s Law, I guess. It took about half an hour to reach this place. And we each had to pay a 20,000rp entrance fee.
Our driver said there are many people here on Saturdays and on Mondays. It was really hot to be out and about, really. So bring an umbrella when you visit. We also managed to board a rickety tram after much walking. And as it went round the park, we heard some kids talking:
Kid: “WATERRR PARKKK!”
Him: “Did he just say What The F*ck?”
Me: “No. Water park. He said water park.”
And unfortunately, it seems like there is no paid fishing available here. You bring your own rod, pick a spot and wait for a catch. We spotted only two guys fishing but there were kids everywhere. I suppose all these schoolchildren were sent here on a Thursday afternoon after school for an excursion?
There’s no particular theme to this park – it has swan boats you can peddle over the pond, a haunted house and other “attractions”, a horse stable, etc. It’s not the Botanical Gardens even though there’s a lot of green. It’s not a fishing spot per se as there weren’t many people fishing and it didn’t look like you could pay for a rod and bait – you have to bring your own. And it’s no amusement park either. It’s like a mish-mash of so many different things. And we probably went at the wrong time.
I was rather surprised to see a man throwing slices of bread to the fish then dumping the plastic wrap into the same body of water the fish are in. It appears that many of the locals don’t bag their refuse and certainly do not think twice about littering. MAYBE there aren’t enough rubbish bins. I’m not sure.
And when I went to the restroom, I found it to be kid-sized. Also, the guy sitting outside seemed to be collecting 2,000rp ( I think ) per restroom user. Most people didn’t pay but as a foreigner, I simply handed over the money and went in.
My darling also commented on how there’s a 20,000rp charge to enter the park itself. I said “Imagine what it’ll be like without the fee.” If the place can be spruced up properly, I think even a 50,000rp charge would be well worth it. It’s a pity how there’s so much land and so much potential for this place to be an area where kids and families can have a truly lovely recreational and picnic spot. But it’s all marred by the trash.
We walked to the entrance ourselves when we were ready to leave and on the way there, my handphone picks up a signal. Finally, I can book a Grab ride! Hallelujah! 😀 (As mentioned in earlier posts, TPG’s not that awesome in Indonesia or, at least, in Pekanbaru) We then booked a Grab ride to Mal SKA. The guy at the ticketing booth helped communicate with our Grab driver and told him we are at the ‘ticket pos’. The vehicle turned out to have a totally different licence plate. Seems like this is very common in Pekanbaru: (1) The drivers will call you upon confirming your booking and (2) The car licence plate will not match what your Grab app tells you. I’m not sure how this is even secure. If I indicate via the app that there’s an Emergency during my ride and I need help, the authorities won’t even be able to locate the right vehicle using the licence plate number registered with Grab!
Anyway, nothing untoward happened. And I learnt that it is useful to have an Indonesian next to you, such as a security officer, as Grab drivers often call to ask where you are… in Indonesian. Can’t answer? Pass the phone to someone unlikely to run away with it e.g. security guard, ticketing officer, policeman.
And oh! Do bring insect repellent if you are heading to Wisata Alam Mayang! There were many mosquitoes, a few of which even followed us into the car! But I guess it was imperative that we made the trip as we are unlikely to return to Pekanbaru.
As an aside, durians were in season when we visited in late-January 2020. But the fruit I had the most of was the avocado. In Pekanbaru, sometimes you’ll find ‘avocado’ spelled as ‘Alpukat’ and sometimes as ‘Apulkat’. I believe they refer to the same fruit.
At Mal SKA, we went to the cinema!
We watched Ip Man 4 at the cinema and paid just 35,000 for each ticket. That’s very cheap at about $3.50! If we’d selected a Premiere movie / seat, it would cost 60k which is still really inexpensive compared to watching a movie in Singapore.
The movie really hit home. It’s hard to imagine the racism that minority races face in America until you see it on the big screen like this. And indeed, the grass is not always greener on the other side.
We also found that quite a number of people were wearing masks. Even the cashier at Mr DIY was wearing one as he was coughing. And they sell masks too so I guess he has no excuse not to be wearing one when he is ill. We bought what we call our ‘zao lor bag’, a canvas tote for containing our purchases and it cost more than S$5. But we had no choice – we did too much shopping and couldn’t possibly check in plastic bags full of our purchases at the airport. 😀
Then we had dinner at Solaria after his haircut…
The Juice Alpukat was blended just right and the food was a lot better than I had expected. Solaria has many outlets and you can find one in just about every mall you go to. At this particular one, we had to pay at the cashier counter before the food would be prepared and served. I’m not sure if the other outlets allow you to eat first and pay later.
Interestingly, there is a hypermart at SKA’s basement and to access it, assuming the lift isn’t working again, you need to locate that escalator going downwards. And it is (almost hidden) behind Biggby Coffee. We actually had to check with the Information Counter to find out how to get downstairs to the basement. (@_@) The snacks and drinks sold in the hypermart are cheap as well so it’s worth looking for the escalator and then heading down to the basement.
And we found some Transformers outside H&M:
Reminds me of the Bumblebee that sometimes shows up outside Waterway Point
As for our Grab ride back to the hotel, it cost all of 24,000rp. The driver didn’t know where to find me and he called and said Starbucks. So I sent him a picture of the location I was at and he managed to find us! 😀 So if all else fails in a country where you have an obvious language barrier with the locals, just send a picture via the Grab chat and the driver will come looking for you. 😀
Read on for:
Day One in Pekanbaru
Day Two in Pekanbaru
Day Three in Pekanbaru