Pekanbaru Day 5: Breakfast at Novotel, Shopping at Mal Ciputra Seraya and 88 Plaza

novotel pekanbaru

Breakfast at Novotel Pekanbaru starts at 6am and lasts till 10am. I think it’s probably the lull season in January. We stepped into the restaurant at around 7am and there were just a few occupied tables. Novotel’s breakfast spread offers many kinds of porridge (chicken, pitan, etc) and rice. Of course, for the angmohs, there’s also toast, muffins and a cereal bar. I thoroughly enjoyed the beef and mushroom porridge and had two servings! 😀 I think there are only two things about Novotel Pekanbaru that I like: the location and their breakfast spread! 😀

novotel pekanbaru breakfast

lontong and beef+mushroom porridge

novotel pekanbaru review

novotel pekanbaru food

The lontong was a little overly salty but I loved everything else, especially that cute porcupine or anteater shaped pau. The cut fruits are stored in the chiller, making them easy to miss. The melon also seemed a tad unripe. As for the pineapple, if you know how to select the ripe bits, it tastes delightful! *burp*

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Checkout takes a while at the Novotel so make sure you only book your ride after you are done. The front desk staff need to communicate with housekeeping staff above and then again and again before finally releasing the deposit. My three crisp 100,000rp notes which I’d handed over for the deposit were returned to me in the form of six old 50,000rp notes. Bummer.

For some reason, old (crumpled, creased, stained) notes are not phased out. And as tourists (obviously), you might often find yourself the recipient of old notes. But it is ok, just hand them to the driver for your next Grab ride. So far, no one has refused any old notes… unlike in Singapore – you know how our aunties are.

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Since our flight was at 6.30pm, we decided to do some last-minute shopping before heading to the airport. That’s easy since Mal Ciputra Seraya is just next door.

And there’s always time for another LIANG sandwich:

liang sandwich bar pekanbaru

We went back to LIANG and found that they take really long to prepare your order. The lady before us had placed her order, gone into the cafe next door and started working on her laptop. I was impressed at how customers can order from LIANG and eat in Cinnamon & Coffee, after ordering a beverage of course.

The LIANG “sandwich” (which is more of like a prata than a crepe or sandwich) has scallions in it. So it is different from the plain ones we are able to buy frozen from supermarkets. Smart! This means we will still have a reason to visit LIANG’s outlets.

The Nyonya Spicy Chicken tasted just so-so. The previous one I had with mayo and mushrooms tasted a lot better.

Then we went shopping…

At the Polo Ralph Lauren shop, we found just one female staff seated on a stool near the changing rooms. No greeting. No recommendation. And interestingly enough, I found the top I had held up the day before and placed back down at an awkward angle was still there in the exact same awkward angle on the same pile. 🤣 Looks like no one bothered to fold the clothes properly even though customers would see them the minute they entered the store.

When my darling asked if a particular top came in a larger size, she replied with a simple “no”. She didn’t need to check, had no other styles that came in a larger size and that she’d recommend.

The good thing is she doesn’t do any selling. So you can take your time and look through everything on display. She really doesn’t care.

I’m not saying all sales staff are like that. There is one particular boutique next to a shop selling teddy bears whereby the staff stand outside the shop to invite customers to enter. We went past a couple of times and I had to avoid looking them in the eye.

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We then took a different exit from Mal Ciputra Seraya and next, a very short walk to 88 Plaza. It’s like Sheng Siong. With slightly cheaper snacks. Masks were flying off the shelves there! We saw one shopping trolley with 5 or 6 boxes of masks. And there were more people picking up the last few boxes near the cashier. Apparently, the Indonesians are panicking just like us in Singapore.

After heading back to the hotel, repacking our luggage and chilling a bit in the lounge, we took a Grab ride to the airport and it cost just 46K – cheaper than the ride from the airport! Along the way, we saw people peddling keropok once your vehicle stops at traffic junctions.

Here’s a lady who’d come right up to your vehicle to ask if you’d like to buy keropok:

pekanbaru traffic junction keropok seller

When we finally reached the airport, we located the Information Counter and confirmed that there’s no departure tax and we were free to spend all our remaining rupiah. 😀

We then found a cafe that looks quite popular and has an obvious plus: it disallows smoking. However, according to the sign at the entrance, they do not allow DATING COUPLES too. 😅

no dating couples in pekanbaru cafe

I’m really not sure if they are serious about this:

no dating couples pekanbaru airport

I turn to my darling and point out the sign and he immediately says we are not dating. 😎 OK. 🤪🤪 So we sit and chat as if we are two serious business people. We’re totally not dating.

Food takes REALLY long to be served here. Like maybe the chef fell asleep halfway or they had to make the meatballs from scratch. Order only if you don’t mind waiting. If you have a plane to catch, A&W might be a better choice.

pekanbaru airport food

pekanbaru airport food review

And we DID go to A&W after that too! 😀 We were obviously trying to stuff ourselves silly before returning to Singapore:

pekanbaru airport A&W

My darling ordered the Deluxe Burger and it turned out to be one sad burger. How is this deluxe?

pekanbaru airport A&W review

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Since there’s no departure tax, we spent just about all the remaining rupiah we had. Then we went to the check-in counter.

Note: After you have checked in your baggage and gotten your boarding pass, take the escalator up and look around as there is a departure lounge for domestic flights and one for international flights. The domestic one had a long queue. I spotted the sign for domestic and turned back in time to see the one for international flights which had no queue! We could have easily joined the queue for domestic flights, reached the front after much waiting and then found out we joined the wrong line. So please pay attention, ya?!

The boarding lounge has washroom facilities and it also has a water dispenser. Plus a booth selling snacks and drinks. So if you don’t wish to pay for pricey F&B items on the plane, you can get what you need here.

And that’s the end of my Pekanbaru travel series – nothing terribly exciting, just a relaxing trip for both of us.

Read, if you haven’t already done so:

Pekanbaru Day One

Pekanbaru Day Two

Pekanbaru Day Three

Pekanbaru Day Four

Pekanbaru Day 4: Novotel Pekanbaru, Willton Cafe & Resto, Wisata Alam Mayang, Mal SKA

novotel pekanbaru free masks

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.

twin room novotel pekanbaru

I’m not sure if this view is even worth mentioning…

novotel pekanbaru review

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.

novotel pekanbaru room

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.

novotel pekanbaru wedding

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. 😀

novotel pekanbaru hotel lift

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 pekanbaru toiletries

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 cafe and resto pekanbaru

willton cafe and resto review

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!

novotel pekanbaru 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

novotel pekanbaru gym and pool

Nobody uses the gym in Pekanbaru’s hotels, it seems.

novotel pekanbaru gym

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.

wisata alam mayang

wisata alam mayang fish

wisata alam mayang plastic trash

wisata alam mayang fishing

wisata alam mayang entrance fee

wisata alam mayang haunted house

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. 😀

wisata alam mayang picture

wisata alam mayang photography

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!

Mal SKA 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…

solaria pekanbaru

solaria pekanbaru review

solaria pekanbaru menu

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:

hnm pekanbaru

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. 😀

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Read on for:

Day One in Pekanbaru

Day Two in Pekanbaru

Day Three in Pekanbaru