Plains, Trains and Automobiles…. (and Ferries, and.....)
We spent an adventure-filled month in Indonesia exploring parts of three main islands: Bali, Java and Sumatra. Flying from Perth to Bali, on a one way ticket and then booking accommodation as we went, gave us all the flexibility we were looking for. In Bali, we spent the first week in the Southern area of Kuta and Seminyak, then moved inland to spend time in the much more relaxing Ubud and then we took a ferry to one of the Gili islands (called Gili Air) near Lombok. Then we flew to Central Java and spent a week in Yogyakarta, then after a delightful 8 hour train ride, we arrived in Jakarta (West Java). From there we flew to Medan, Sumatra where we hired cars (and drivers) to get us to Bukit Lawang and, finally Lake Toba, our final destination in Indonesia.
The ubiquitous SE Asian 'Ute'
Indonesia , (and most of South East Asia for that matter), is definitely a place where it would be best to leave your ‘First-World Sensitivities’ at home….
|It is common to see most children riding around without helmets|
|The infamous squat toilet !|
|Stuffed Local Wildlife...|
|Barong Dance in Bali|
You would miss the chance to meet some truly wonderful people too! Indonesians are a fun bunch....they are quick to smile and laugh, they frequently sing out loud and call out hello to you at every corner and if you respond with even just a little bit of Bahasa Indonesia, they instantly light up, almost without exception, delighted as they encourage you in your efforts.
|Woman in Rice Fields near Ubud, Bali|
And so we spent a happy month, introducing our children to this culture we found so fascinating back when we lived here almost two decades ago. We were curious to see for ourselves if things were as we remembered them…turns out there were to be a few surprises in store for us...
…was the perfect place to ease ourselves back into the culture, the humidity, the chaos and various smells of Indonesia...The kids took a few days adjusting to this new reality: the sounds of horns and motorcycles whizzing close behind us as we we walked precariously along the crumbling-almost non existent-sidewalks and open drainage ditches... people calling out to us and offering their wares and services…Over the first few days Meg and Matthew were initiated to eating nasi and mi goreng, satay,soto and kelapa muda (green coconuts) from street vendors tucked neatly along the busy streets and Meg quickly learned to say ‘good morning’ and ‘thank you’ in Bahasa Indonesia.
White Water Rafting: We took the advice of our friends from SV Miss Behaving, and went rafting! The lush green central Balinese forests and towering cliffs were a beautiful setting for such a fun activity to do as a family !
I can’t remember laughing (and screaming in terror) that much in a long long time, a really thrilling ride! We have some video footage which is - in my opinion - truly hilarious! I am certain this will make it into one of Meg's future video projects !
The Dances: The Barong dance with its colourful and elaborate costumes and elegant balinese dancers and the Kecak dance; which is unique in that the only “music” accompanying the dancers are the voices of 30 or 40 men repeating the same sound over and over with hypnotic effect ...and the visually stimulating balls of fire being kicked off the stage by the beloved Hanoman (White Monkey) character.
|Meg and MC and the Red Monkey after a very wet (rainy) but fantastic Kecak dance performance !|
The Gili Islands: We visited Gili Air, with its very pretty (and clean!) beaches and low key vibe....eating out every night on the little restaurants' platforms overlooking the sunset….
|Meg trying mangosteen (fruit) for the first time|
|Almost zero cars or motorcycles (only electric scooters) on Gili Air!|
More Photos of what we saw and did in Bali :
|The daily offerings found all around Bali|
|Mark trying Kopi Luak (Coffee beens predigested by a cat-like animal)|
|The Bali Bombing Memorial Wall (Oct 2002), Kuta|
|Meg surfing in Kuta|
|Mark buying a snack (BBQ corn)|
|Gas pump for the scooters|
|Monkey Forrest, Ubud|
|Another waterfall !|
|Mark and Meg on their way to a temple|
|Meg learning to make batik|
|Meg and Mom "Conquer Batik Making" ….with the help of patient teachers|
|Batik in the making|
|Rice field worker…..|
|Tanah Lot Temple, Bali|
|Boarding the plane to Yogya|
The impressive Borobodur and Prambanan temples,
Taman Sari (Water Palace) and nearby "Cyber Kampung"
The Village/Home Industry Tour,
|Tofu making process: from the bean to the final product|
|Meg sampling the tofu at the tofu "factory"|
|Matthew walking in a traditional potter's village|
|Matthew learning the fine art of pottery, at the wheel….|
Shopping for Batik
Seeing the evening Wayang Kulit (Shaddow Puppets) performances and seeing Wayang Golek (Wooden Puppets) at the Kraton
|Meg enjoying the Wayang Golek|
Catching rides in Becaks (pronounced betchak)
More Photos of Yogyakarta :
|Lady selling Salak fruit, near Prambanan temple, central Java|
|Visiting the Kraton (Sultan's Palace) Yogya|
|The most colourful hermit crabs you will ever see, Bird Market Yogya|
|Live grubs at the bird market, Yogya|
|Sweet treats on Maliobora Street Markets|
Danau (Lake) Toba as seen from Samosir Island
Other than the wonderful thrill of seeing Sumatran Orangutans in the wild at Bukit Lawang (as described in detail in my last post), we all loved spending a relaxing 4 days in Lake Toba (Danau Toba). Samosir Island in the middle of the enormous crater lake is home to the Batak people. They have a very distinct culture and traditions which we enjoyed learning about. We got to see their dances, and saw many striking batak houses all around the island.
|Notice MC put her hands over the pointy end of the horn….Those things looked sharp when up close !|
The durian seller, Lake Toba
|Meg and Matt enjoying the serenity of Lake Toba, Sumatra|
On getting older ….and loosing one's cool: (or Mark is finally rubbing off on me!)
I am going to blame hormones and basic travellers exhaustion for this one, as I lost my cool-something I try to never do, especially while travelling- not once but three times in the last month: Twice with immigration officers (not adviseable), and once with a pickpocket (this one felt good)
1- Perth Airport upon our departure from Australia: “ She needs sensitivity training !”, I called out over my shoulder, pointing to the agent in question as I was ushered into a new line up. The agent had been blatantly unsympathetic about Matthew not being able to operate their new scanning system on his own and refusing my insistence on helping him through. I was still fuming by the time I boarded the plane.
2- Medan Airport upon our departure from Indonesia : “How do you expect us to get to Singapore from here ? You want us to SWIM ?" (while making exagerated swim motions with my arms), to an agent after he informed us that our morning flight (there were no evening flights out) was “one day” too late (ie that we were one day over our 30 day visa and that we would have to pay a fee (which, after a short attempt on our part to avoid, we paid finally) ...by the time I boarded the plane, this time, I was laughing at myself and tried to appease an embarrassed teenager (poor Meghan).
3- Yogyakarta with the becak driver/pick pocket: As I mentioned earlier, we rode the becaks as often as we could around Yogya. Every time we got in, I pulled my backpack off my shoulders and placed it at my feet, with one leg through the straps. Every time, .....except this one day....when we had gotten quite comfortable around town....I let my guard down and I lived to regret it: Here is what happened: There was a very keen becak driver, who was very quick to bargain and who was very persistent in driving us, this should of been our first hint. We agreed and, as he drove Meg and I to our first destination, I kept my backpack on my back...because we didn’t have far to go....when we got there , we paid him and then I put my wallet away in the top zipper of my backpack and said goodbye...but he insisted that he would wait for us and give us a ride back...I didn’t think much of it, as this is quite common in low season when there are very few tourists and business is down for the drivers. A few hours later, after we emerged from the water palace we were visiting, there was the same driver....keen to have us hop back on board to our next destination...since he was so cheap, we accepted...we went to the museum, and again I kept my back pack on my back, and after paying him, put my wallet back in the top zipper section again....never dreaming that he was watching my every move and I was stepping into his trap.... Oh yes, he was watching, and he was loving what he was seeing! I had a pattern he liked! So when we came out of the museum, there he was, as persistent as ever to drive us back to our hotel (we were going to walk, but took pity on him, as he looked so desperate (Ha, I can’t believe how naive I was!)....
A few hours later, once all of our cards were safely canceled and once we realized that no one else would be able to use our train tickets, I was much more calm....the thief had gained about 30 dollars, a purple wallet some useless plastic cards and I thought : “He can bloody well keep my drivers license as a souvenir, of the once naive Canadian woman who had gained wisdom through his actions”. I hope that he remembers the one that had nevertheless had a chance to look him in the eye and confront him, telling him exactly what she thought of him, in his own language !
Happy Chinese New Year .... to all you Roosters:
I found out from my good friend Lynne that, according to the Chinese when it is ‘your year’, you have a greater chance of encountering bad luck...and to help counter this bad luck you are supposed to wear something “red” that someone has given you.....
Since I happen to BE a proud rooster, and since I am always one to promote and go along with superstitious thoughts, I suggested to Mark that he might want to buy me something red....
Since Chinese New Year has begun, I had: been robbed, chased by an angry orangutan and I had fallen off a bike (I am okay)! Since then, Mark has gone out and bought me a red scarf...which I have worn and will continue to wear everyday on this trip and after my return as well...God knows I need all the luck I can get !
Mark says…… "Overall, notwithstanding the challenges, we had a great time in Indonesia and very much enjoyed introducing more interesting cultures to the kids! "
Now we are off, first to Singapore where Meg was born 15 years ago and then…. Thailand…
Thanks for reading and stay tuned !
4M's Overland in SE Asia….