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BANGKA, BELITUNG & BATAM ISLANDS


WHY THESE ISLANDS?

Well, the plan was to spend the last 2 weeks (in Indonesia) in Sumatra. The problem is that transportation is very slow and quite expensive in that Island, so, to visit the places I was planning I would need to literally run, passing almost all the time on the road, without time to explore it properly. Because of that I decided to give up of Sumatra, leaving it for the next trip, with enough time to discover it calmly. As second option I had the small paradisiacal islands of Banka and Belitung, highly advised by my couchsurfing host in Lombok (Mr Klaus), and Batam, an island right in front of Singapore, the right place to spend the last days of the Indonesia Visa, with no worries about leaving Indonesia on time, thanks to the daily connections Batam-Singapore they have there.

ON THE “JET FOIL”

From Palembang to Muntok (city in Banka Island), most of the trip was made crossing the big river that passes through Palembang. The landscape was amazing, silver light reflected on the river at the early morning, endless flooded zones with a few small villages spread along the riverside. Now I understand why there’s no road from Palembang to the east coast of Sumatra. This is a wild tropical and flooded zone with plenty of big rivers, with no conditions to make roads. Check on Google Earth, you will what I mean.

About the boat, it was hiper-crowded, with no space to move, but these people, like little impatient children, couldn’t stop go further and back. I didn’t know where and why, there was no empty place to go. Meanwhile, they were kicking, hitting and disturbing the rest of the passengers, making the already taught trip even harder. Because of all those reasons, I was not able to make pictures of the exotic landscape, pictures that I would like to had taken in order to show you how is that wonderful place…

DREAM STORY IN MUNTOK

Already in the Tanjung Kalian harbor (nearby Muntok city), I walked away avoiding the ojek guys!  Asked the locals about the right direction to Muntok city and started to walk towards there, but the burning hot weather forced me to seek for shade, so I left the main road and walked towards the seaside. When I found beach and shade I took out my bags and got ready to go swim, but I didn’t do it immediately, once a strange wonderful encounter happened. A very old man come to talk to me in quite good English, proposing me to come to his house to listen him playing violin and meet his family. I loved the idea but found it strange. Still, I said yes to him, Mr Samsury Jupri, asking him if he could wait 5 minutes so I could refresh myself in the tepid waters… The confirmation that he was not joking came while we was walking towards his home: he started to whistle renowned classic songs! 🙂

Mister Samsury went to take his violin while his sister and wife prepared drink and a lot of food to me. We stayed in the balcony, under the shade and refreshed by the soft breeze. Mr. Samsury proposed me to play the violin but come on; I have no idea how to play it! So he played beautiful classics songs, some I recognized, some not. I enjoyed all, but the one who really touch my heart was the last one: Bela Ciao, for logic reasons… Soon later we were not 4 but a big crow, a soon and grand soon, a daughter, a neighbor, 2 other teenagers, etc… Incredibly, Mr. Samsury was not just the oldest person there, he was also the only one able to speak English, and so he was the translator during the long and joyful conversation. When I said it was time to go to Muntok city looking for a place to stay overnight and then sightseeing, he proposed me to stay in his house, saving “good money” with that option. Of course I accepted, explaining that anyway I will go to visit the city of Muntok, coming back to his home at the evening. The 7km separating the harbor’s village from Muntok should had cost me around 10000rp, but I did it for free with his soon ride, who left me in the right spot: bus terminal with an internet café, plenty of roadside restaurants and only a few meters distant from the coast! 🙂

EXPLORING MUNTOK

The first reaction was to go check the coast, enjoy a view that I always love to find: the ocean. Soon after I went to have lunch and then go to the internet café. I spent 2 hours there, but must of the time I was talking with the cool teenagers guys, rather than use the laptop. One fo them saw me updating my blog and asked me to help him creating his own bog. I did so, but a few minutes later he couldn’t log in anymore once he forgot the password!!! :p Other saw me using software to edit pictures, staring at the monitor amazed. I asked if he wanted it and copied the install folder to his laptop. He was incredibly happy! :p Meanwhile they were feeding me with nice food and snacks, and when I was about to pay they asked me only half of the supposed price! 🙂 Ah, and we became “facebook friends”! :p

Another stop in a restaurant to drink a coffee; one more nice conversation with the owner and his friends. They were watching the TV showing the faked photo of Bin Laden dead. When I realized they were discussing it I join the debate too. The restaurant’s owner, a 60 years old man was able to understand English but not to speak, so he was a kind of translator to the rest of the men in this unexpected debate. I switched on my laptop and showed them the faked photo, comparing it with the other one of Bin laden making a speech, while explaining were was the evidences of photo edition. 2 guys were amazed, the other 2 happy to see a foreign come there to confirm their opinions with facts.

Walking towards the beach and fishing harbor I stopped innumerous time to shake hands of people and make the pictures they were ask me to do. It looks like everybody loves to be on the photo here! On the way back the same, but the best moments were there in the beach and in the fishing market in front of it. The fishing market for the photo session and conversation with some funny and cheeky old women. The beach for its beautifulness and its quietness. It was low tide, so there was dozens of meters of sand with thousands of special crabs (with the right main leg much bigger than the left main one) moving around. The late afternoon light was perfect, and the cold breeze a wonderful gift from the nature. I seated at the end of a very long jetty, to relax for a while. There I found myself contemplating that wonderful place, thinking about the local people I met, how they live their lives, how they greatly welcome a stranger like me… I was finally calm, completely calm, with no sense of time. I had finally found what I was seeking in this whole trip… 🙂

Back to the road, I passed again in the street market where the photo session with locals started again, due to their constant request! Ah, how they love to be photographed and how smiley people they are… 🙂

Back to the bus terminal, I seated again in the restaurant where I drunk coffee early this day, restarting the conversation about international politics and US lies in general, while eating an incredibly cheap meal of rice with fried crabs. This time there was another old man with enough good skills on English language to make the conversation long and interesting. It is amazing how young people do not speak English at all here, but some older people do!

At the end of the afternoon I looked for an ojek to bring me back to Mr. Samsury house, 7km away from there, but once again the guys asked too much money for it (Mr. Samsury and his family had told me the fair price), so I decided to walk back. That was a great decision! 🙂 It was a very long walk, but very pleasant and interesting. I did it little by little, stopping often to talk with people and make pictures of them and their children. What a lovely people. The only country where I had this bliss feeling of communicating with locals was in Turkey and still, I think here in Banka Island it is even more special than there! 🙂 By coincidence, one woman who told their children to get closer to me and say thanks for the pictures I took (!?!), later in the evening came to Mr. Samsury and was amazed to find me there. Around sunset time, when the sky was painted with hiper-vivid blue and orange colors, I stopped nearby the balcony of a house where 3 teenager girls where playing guitar and singing. They shyly smiled and stopped to play, but when I asked ans insisted to play and sing for me they did it. The conversation got long and one of them, if I wouldn’t had stop it in the right moment, she would propose to marry with me two sentences later, for sure… :p Already dark and only 1km away from Mr. Samsury home a guy stopped his motorbike nearby me and asked if I wanted ojek. I was really tired, it was very dark and I had my bag on my backs, so I asked how much. He said “two”. I though he meant 2.000rp, so I accepted. One minute later, at the entrance of mister Samsury house he asked me for 20.000rp!?! Ahahaha, sure… I called him crazy, explaining him that 10.000rp is the fair price to the 7km, so 2.000rp for 1km was more than fair! He asked for 10.000 and insisted. I gave up talking, left 2.000rp in the motorbike and entered Mr. Samsuri house. Explaining that situation to my host, he told me I paid the right price and that I did the right thing! 🙂

BACK TO THE DREAM PLACE

When I came back “home”, a huge banquet and the whole family was waiting for me in the balcony! Uoh,what an welcoming balcony!!! Hopefully it was now there other soon of Mr Samsury, architect and amateur photographer. Thanks to his very level of  English Language, I had now a very good translator, making the conversations with the members of the family far more interesting! Besides being the translator, he was also the funny jester and also the photographer for the pictures of the family and I together! His wife was there too, and told she helped to prepare the food, enthusiasted to meet the foreign that was about to arrive! :p Fresh fruit, hot food, coffee and water never stopped to come next to me for the whole long night, while we were chatting and enjoying to be together. Mr. Samsury played violin again, we watched together the photos of the day and others from my trip in Indonesia and, when I went to take a mandi (kind of shower), I left Mr Samsury listening classic music on my laptop, his favorites songs but also others he didn’t knew and I wanted him to listen: Eric Satie’s Piano Works. He loved it, and I was happy for that! 🙂 After midnight, when I was about to go sleep, the electricity turned off, to only turn on in the next morning. That destroyed mine and the arquitect guy plan to watch the semi-final of Europa League on the TV. My time (Benfica) would be playing against other Portuguese time (Braga). Good that I didn’t watched, my time lost… :p

In the next day morning I woke up very early, having enough time to enjoy the sunrise in the balcony with my new Indonesian family, calmly taking the breakfast together. They asked me for more photos together and to not forget them. They insisted on that: “please do not forget us!” Uoh, the grandmother hugged me almost crying, holding me strongly like if she didn’t want me to go away… well, was the first very hard “goodbye” of the trip… I left their home and went with the youngest soon by motorbike until Muntok terminal bus, were he left me saying “thank you, thank you”! I was the one who should say that 1000 times to all of them!

PANGKAL PINANG

The bus I was about to take was going to Pangkal Pinang, where we arrived 3 hours later. Muntok is situated on the extreme west of the island, Pangkal is on the extreme east part and capital of Banka Island. Like always, the bus stopped outside the city, obliging me to take a bemo that left me in the very city center. There asked locals for hotels. Many of them were pointing to different directions at the same time, other assured there were not hotel in the center… Trying to follow some indications, I walked down a long street. At the end of it a guy told me that the hotels were where I came from, advising me to go back. Back to the original place other guy told me to walk down the same street to find hotel! Ahahahaha fuck off! Again? Why do people enjoy to make fun of foreigns? They kept pointing and advising many directions, but I just gave up, pretending not to listen and choosing streets randomly in the quest for a cheap hotel. In the only one I found they were asking for 40€/per night in the CHEAPEST room!!! Ahahah, bye bye, good luck. Nearby the hotel was a Flights’ Agency with a guy able to speak well English! Aleluia, solution! This guys told me about a street with plenty of cheap hotels, next to the main Mosque and also where was situated the ferries’ company I needed to find to by the ticket to Belitung Island! And even draw me a map! Perfect! 5 minutes later I was there and found a very cheap hotel. Believe me or not, this street is the main one, right in front of the square where I left the public bus, 1 minute walking! So, the people there was really making fun of me giving wrong and insane directions to find a hotel!

When was about to pay the hotel I realized I had no more money! “Easy, go out and find a bank” I said to myself. I found many, around 10, but no ATM worked with my card. I still had my Emergency Euros Pack. I tried to exchange in several banks, but they only doing it for dollars and Singaporean dollars. Eventually somebody told me about a bank were usually Euros are accepted. I went there, but was close, opening only 2 days later! Not a good day! Only solution, make a deal with a local. It was not that easy to find one read to exchange Euros, and when I found, the negotiation was taught. The real rate was 123000rp = 1€. I proposed 12000rp, the old and rich man said 10000! With time and a lot of diplomacy I managed to reach an agreement at 11500rp per Euro.

Already with money I went back the hotel to pay it. Definitely not a good day: a big storm started, preventing me from explore the street of Pangkal Pinang for many hours. Later happen also a very bad thing with the memory card: The pictures from the morning at Muntok and all from Pangkal Pinang were lost! That was hard for me! Ah, and when I went out to look for internet, for the first time in the whole trip the owner of the internet café didn’t let me to connect my laptop  with their cable. And happen twice in that night. Only on the 3rd attempt I managed to get internet, the fastest and cheapest ever found in Indonesia. The bad was luck was gone, promising a bright next day! 🙂 On the way back to home I bought a tasty and huge Chocolat Martabak! If I knew how easy would be the next day, I wouldn’t have bought such a big one think to eating in 2 days! 😛

THE GOOD SIDE OF PANGKAL PINANG

At the morning, when I went out the room to take my breakfast (a coffee), other guy was there drinking the same, so I supposed he was a costumer too. Dani was his name, a kind young guy interested in photography, so I showed him the camera and the my pictures in the laptop. The time was passing and the interest on each other was growing, so I showed my website, explained about my trip’s lifestyle, the concept of couchsurfing and hitchhiking. Curious if I had couchsurfing experiences in his country, I answered yes but only in the big developed cities. In this moment he smiled, took is mobile phone and called somebody: A friend in Belitung Island to host me or help me with housing. The conversation was going great, but I was really on the mood to write on the blog, so i went to my room. 30m later he knocked the door, which I opened ti receive a gift from Dani: a fresh orange juice! Cool!. A few minutes later he introduced me 2 friends and all together went to have lunch offered by him. A local meal with fresh fish and curry! Mmmm, wonderful taste! 🙂 After lunch I went back him them to the hotel by motorbike. While I was packing my stuff, Dani went to take his car in order to deliver me at the harbor with the maximum comfort! What an amazing guy! Already in the harbor, and before I understood what they were asking me, Dani had already paid it: the harbor fee! :p At the embarking time he offer me on more bottle of juice, and a box with cakes! What to do with the huge Martabak I bought!?! :p Ah, and told me to not forget to bring the paper with my name and country written, so his friend Hartono would find me at the arriving harbor more easily.

My staying in Banka Island was short, but there’s plenty of reasons to come back: the west coast were lives my Indonesian family; the smiling lovely people all over the island; the west coast: a several kms and desert beach of white sand; the new friends in the capital; and the several Chinese temples spread out through the Island (50% of he population is ethnically Chinese).

ARRIVAL AT TANJUNG PANDAN HARBOUR (BELITUNG ISLAND)

It was supposed to meet Hartono at the harbour entrance, and I thought it would be very easy once I was the only foreign coming in the ferry. And besides that I walked very slowly and in circles to give time to the unknown guy to see me. Nothing. I gave up and tried outside the harbor. There also nothing happened, so I asked a mobile phone borrowed and call him. He was talking only in Indonesian, but I understood him saying he was in the harbor, near the ferry, so I walked back to finally find him! 🙂 He drove me first to his friends house to meet them, then to the place where and other 4 guys live. Asked how to the owner how much I should pay per day for a room: 25.000. I accepted immediately!  Of course, a big room, clean and new, not in a hotel, but in a shared house with 2 toilet,living room, place to wash clothes! A real and big house for the next 5 days! Great!

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2011 in Indonesia

 

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JAKARTA & PALEMBANG


Jakarta (West Java)

THE TRAIN

In one and half months spent on Indonesia, constantly taking buses and trains, I already take it as a normal fact that sellers come inside the public transportations and do their job. Actually I even like it, for the easy access to cheap goods, and for the more reach social environment. What I really didn’t appreciate was to have this people selling their stuff in a night train. And when I say night, I mean the whole night. 10pm, 2 am, 4am, … they never stop trying selling although almost everybody was sleeping and not a single person was buying nothing. And those, like me, who were not sleeping, were surely awake because of their terrible noise and their strident voices repeating over and over the same sentences, loud, too too loud!!! “Ammmm… tohu tohu tohu toh … tooooohu tohu tohu tohu tohu”, “Aaaaaqua aqua aqua aqua … air air”… What a hell! Even the waiters of the train’s restaurant were coming from times to times with the menu, touching the passengers’ shoulder to wake them up and propose a meal! At 3am, when the passenger was actually sleeping!?! Ah, this Indonesian folks are really peaceful, I don’t understand how they can suffer this sleep torture without complaint or get mad. The good side was too meet some nice people seated nearby me; 2 girls in the seat in front of mine looked back and started to talk with me, making many personal questions (like always here in Indonesia :p), but I diverged the conversations to practical things like how to go from Jakarta to Belitung Island by ferry. They didn’t know but one of them called a friend and later gave me the answer: name of the harbor, schedules, etc… Very kind and altruist her attitude! :p

THE POST’S NAME

The name of this post, Jakarta & Palembang!?! Right, it was planned to be called West Java, once I was planning to go from Yogyakarta to Bandung (already in the west part), stay one night, then make the rest of the trip to the capital. I also planned to visit the nearby city of Bogor in one of the 4 days staying in Jakarta. Unfortunately, as I explained in the previous post, my feet were completely damaged, so I spent almost all the time at Astu’s home (my couchsurfing host in Jakarta), and when I got better I only had time to rapidly check out this city and no other else.

THE LAST EFFORT

The train arrived at 5.30am, 2 hours delayed, but that was a good thing and I was willing it to happen, once I would have more time to rest without use my feet and I would not need to stay long in an uncomfortable situation at the train station. 20 minutes later it was already enough sunlight. Painfully I start to walk towards the exit, looking for the place where I could find the bus “Kopaja P20”. It was very close, but it looked an endless distance to make with my new slow speed and my new walking style (trying to use more the undamaged parts of my feet and less the damaged ones). The bus took almost an hour to get to Astu neighborhood, giving me a clear idea about the huge size of this megalopolis. During the time spent in the bus I had the opportunity to talk with a shy but very kind young girl (dressed with the traditional Muslim clothes). It is not every day that I have the chance to speak with someone with an enough good level of English and the girl was very interesting, so we kept talking for the whole trip, and when I was feeling enough confident I asked for a favor: to let me use her mobile phone to send a message to my next host. She told me to call. Great, 2 minutes later everything was clear with Astu (the host) and she was at home waiting me. Already in Lebak Bulus Terminal, the sweet girl came with me searching for the next bus (Mikrolet S12 according with Astu‘s tips), even helping me to walk and to not loose balance. Usually I deal with bus drivers easily by myself, but she wanted to do it, stressing to the driver (in Indonesian) the address where to leave me and to take good care of me! A lovely person, who simply went way when finished “her task”, giving not so much importance and time to my gratefulness. A genuine help indeed! 🙂 Later in the day she called Astu to know if I arrived well and if I was feeling better. No idea about her name, but the image of her beautiful face and her smooth voice still in my mind…

BECOMING ALMOST A VEGETABLE

In the first day in Jakarta, besides the trip from the train station to Astu’s house, I did barely anything, except rest and sleep. Only at the end of the day I went out (by car) with Astu who kindly offered me a dinner and who also kindly went shopping for me (and for her) while I was waiting in the car. At night 3 friends of her came to make a visit, so the 5 of us had a pleasant conversation. I was positively surprised with one of the guys (from Sumba, an island nearby Timor) who was able to recognize the Indonesian words with Portuguese and even helped me with 2 more to my special Indonesian-Portuguese dictionary. By the way, here’s an update of it:

Tinta – Tinta – (Ink)

Kamija – Camisa – (Shirt)

Almari – Armário – (Cabinet)

Boneka – Boneca – (Doll)

Banku – Banco – (Bench)

Cerutu – Charuto – (Cigar)

Natal – Natal – (Christmas)

Risol – Rissol – (Oilcake)

Saldo – Saldo – (Balance accounting)

Pasta (Gigi) – (Pasta de dentes) – (Tooth Paste)

Kertas (Paper) – Cartaz (Poster)

The second and third day where quite similar: during the day, sleep, rest and work on the blog/website. Ah, in the third day I finally tried the great swimming pool in the backyard of Astu’s house. At the night, a tour in the city by car with Astu and friends. In the first one we went to a nice bar, Rolling Stone Café, with live music and really good pictures in the entrance wall. In the second, a longer trip (I was already able to walk, slowly), we stop first in a square with outdoor “restaurants”, where I tried Martabak for the first time. Then we moved to Kota, a kind of old town, very crowd and noisy, but very interesting for its people, for the colors and smells, and for the old style buildings, mainly from Dutch colonial times. There, in the main square, we entered in a very exquisite and expensive restaurant, Batavia, in which I only could afford to buy something because it is located in Indonesia, not in Europe! :p Still, in Batavia restaurant I drunk the most expensive coffee ever in my life: 3,33€! Ah, but the place was wonderful, everything was beautiful there, and I loved the feeling of jumping to another era, the romantic early 20th century…

EXPLORING JAKARTA BY MYSELF

At the 4th day in Jakarta I was finally feeling my feet enough recovered to try to explore the big city by myself. Woke up not that early, swum for a while in the pool and then went to the big shopping mall nearby the bus terminal where I bought new sneakers for 10€. To find cheap and good sneakers was easy, the problem was to pay it: more than 1 hour waiting in the queue! Plus 1 and a half hour by bus until the old town, the adventure only started after 2.30pm! :p

The first impression of Jakarta was the amazing skyscrapers from all sizes, and shapes. Never before I had sight so many in a single city! Besides de built ones, there’s plenty of others under construction, make me understand how economically dynamic must be this megalopolis!  Weird is to look back in my memories from the last 45 days spent in Indonesia, and remember all the third world visions I found. It is hard to believe that those third world places and this city belong to the same country… How can it be?

About the public bus system in here (Trans Jakarta), it is really good and efficient, too crowd but that’s normal in such a big city. However, the reason to talk about the bus system is a different and funny one: All kind of buses here in Indonesia have always a guy at the door calling customers, helping them with the bags and telling the names of cities and bus stops. It sounds ok, helpful and useful in many situations. This Trans Jakarta, in the other hand, has an automatic voice saying the name of the next stop in Indonesian and English, have an electronic panel indicating the same, and also normal panels with the name written in every stop. The doors open and close automatically. In a few words: western style bus! But still, they have a guy at the door telling the name of the stops, asking people if they want to leave or not, and pretending to open and close the door! Lol! What a nonsense job… Ah, there are many nonsense jobs in Indonesia, but now this is my favorite one! :p

With still limited movements I opted to go straight to the old town (Kota and surroundings), where I could see a lot without walk that much. I had been there in the previous day with Astu and friends, but by night, and we spent almost all the time inside Batavia restaurant. This time I stayed outside, enjoying the colorfulness and diversity of people and their behavior in the main square and around it. Outdoor restaurants, sellers, gambling games, live music, street tattoo shop, guitar players, skaters, old style bikes and motorbikes for renting, and a huge crowd moving around or simply seating down drinking and chatting with friends. I made both, walk for a while in the quest for the perfect picture, then I ordered a coffee from a street seller and seated down nearby a big family with kids. The right family, no doubt, smiley and talkative, curious about me, we spent a lot of time there talking and making pictures of each other, specially they with all the mobile phones they had! :p Their interest was really genuine, making many questions to try to understand me and my world while feeding me with their stuff! Ah, and what a surprise when one of the woman told me that her grandfather was Portuguese! That explained all about her unique face. I really thought she was Indian, but makes sense that a mix of Portuguese and Javanese look the way she does… very interesting indeed…

Besides the big family, there was also a group of 3 teenagers making pictures of themselves (probably to upload to facebook). I took a picture of one while posing, and then show to them. The first shy instinct was to hide her smile with the hands and say: “mister please delete it”. A few seconds later they were begging for more pictures, one by one, in group and also with me! :p Finished the “photo session” we kept talking until the sunset. I was then happy to leave Jakarta with not so much seen, but with new interesting friends..

Travelling coincidences: It happens to me very often strange coincidences while travelling. This trip in Indonesia was not particularly rich on that. Poland is the country of traveling coincidences, happening almost every day there, I don’t know why… Ok, the story: Earlier in the day, when I arrived at Kota main square, I seated in an outdoor restaurant to have lunch. A few minutes later 3 beautiful girls, all with Bob Marley stile’s bonnet, seated right in front of me. At the night, when I got inside the bus to go back home,  and after have found a place to stay stand up, I raised my head and to see the very same 3 girls right in front of me! They recognized me too, shyly smiling

In the next day morning, for the third time in arrow, I could take a bus for my next (far away) destination nearby my host’s home. The difference this time was to do it in a main Bus Terminal, not stopping buses in the road! 😛

PALEMBANG (SOUTH EAST SUMATRA)

THE ROAD

The first hours were not very interesting, crossing innumerous ugly suburbs of the big capital, dirtiness, slums, pollution, factories… The first time the bus stopped was precisely in front of a huge industrial complex. The reason to stop there was the passenger’s dinner. I was told (and I asked several times to confirm in the ticket’s office) that I would have a hot meal in a roadside restaurant included in the bus ticket price. Watching all passengers taking their bus tickets out their wallets and moving towards the restaurant I concluded this was the one. So I went out, showed my ticket and ask for the meal. The restaurant’s waiter staying at its entrance told me “no, the meal is not free, it must be paid”.  Yah sure. I was just too tired of this kind of situations that I decided not to argue, neither beg for the food, humiliating myself once again. Being constantly cheated can change a person’s response to a specific situation.  So, I didn’t eat, neither the free I should receive, neither paying (money for those bastards not for sure!). I went back to the bus and eat from my “emergency pack” of biscuits! :p And life goes on… 🙂

Although I would be making the trip from Jakarta to Palembang with a bus, it was necessary once again to take a ferry to cross the strait between Java and Sumatra. The ferry was very big and had a lot of buses, so before leave the buses’ park and go upstairs in the ferry, I took a picture of the license plate and another of the zone where it was parked. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t get lost, and I didn’t, but was good to do it in order to feel safe and relaxed.

Inside the ferry it was incredibly hot, like a real sauna, although it was already night! I guess there were too many people and buses and so on… I decided to stay outside in the balconies, seating in hard surfaces but being refreshed by the cold breeze.

Back to the road and back to the third world in Sumatra, after 5 days in the first world of Jakarta! It is really weird this feeling. I took a bus in the middle of the urban jungle; a few hours later, still in the same country, I’m surrounded by the real jungle and wood houses in the river’s waters! Very beautiful landscape! Better outside than inside the bus, definitely: It was late night and I was trying to sleep when the drivers decided to turn on the radio with incredibly laugh speakers! I remember to kindly ask to decrease the volume at the least 5 times. Then a few more times with an upset expression. In all the situations they said yes, but never did what I asked, ridiculously pretending to be turning the volume control. I went back to my seat, trying to sleep but I couldn’t. I was really trying to sleep when suddenly, without thinking or planning it, I jumped out of my seat and started to shout very loud in Portuguese, complaining of the music and calling them every word possible! They switched off the radio for good! :p

In the next day morning I started to understand why it would take so much time (and so expensive ticket) to get into Palembang. The only road is practically a non-road, so old and destroyed it is, and is fulfilled with endless kilometers of trucks and buses. In Flores I would understand that situation, but here, so close to the capital and with a completely flat land where I suppose it is easy to build a road… come on, it really looks like the Indonesian government spends all the taxes money in Jakarta, neglecting the needs of the remaining islands on purpose… I don’t know enough about this subject to write down here, but almost 2 months travelling in this country allowed me to make some negative conclusion about it.

The trip was longer that people told me it would be. Expecting to arrive at the morning, I arrived at 2.30pm! But that was a good think, once I had plenty of time to discover this new, exotic and different world from my window! Dense tropical jungle, again houses built on water like in Sumbawa but with different style, many mosques but also several churches (for instance, one with the name “Gereja Santa Theresia”) and Hindu temples, many villages and dirty cities as I never had seen before (even in Indonesia)… in general what I could see was a sea of green, completely flat, with no sight of mountains at all. I know they have very big mountain ranges crossing almost all Sumatra from north to south, but that’s situated nearby the west coast and I was crossing a road nearby the east coast. In the last dozens of kilometers, getting closer to Palembang, the number of rivers spread in the forest started to rise. Now I understand why I couldn’t find on GoogleEarth roads connecting Palembang to the coast. There’s no such thing at east of Palembang, due to the immense amount of rivers. Now I also know that to move out from Palembang to the next Island (Banka), the “road” will be the river, and the “bus” a kind of very fast ferry that they call Jet Foil…

STOCK IN THE BUS TERMINAL’S SUBURB OF PALEMBANG

The first impression of Palembang was very negative. Huge, incredibly dirty and chaotic… I felt like willing to move out immediately from there. Walking around and asking the people from times to times, I finally found the bus terminal (ah, because the bus stop in front of the bus company’s office, not in the terminal!?!). Even before get into the main building I was already surrounded by a group of 12 guys trying to selling me tickets to everywhere, including the Moon, or trying to guess the name of my destinations in dozens of attempts. I seated and try tried to keep quiet. They got closer to me again. I moved again and stayed quiet. Finally, after 5 minutes they understood my game and got quiet too, so I was then ready to explain my situation, little by little, with the few words I know in Indonesian. Once explained that I wanted to go to Banka-Belitung Islands, all of them started to say they had tickets to go there, but I was very skeptical. It was written many destinations in the innumerous offices, but nothing about these islands. 2 of them even tried to sell me very expensive tickets, starting to write stuff on it, but I said it was not right because it was written many cities names in the tickets and no one was in the islands I was asking for. More, they failed to answer all of my questions: at what hour it would depart, how much time it would take, where the bus would enter a ferry, which would be the arrival city in Banka Island. I listened about many cases like that when naïve tourists or travellers are cheated with faked tickets to nowhere. I didn’t want to join that list, so I left them talking and went away…

THE YOUNG WOMEN ARE THE SOLUTION

Almost 2 months in Indonesia made me learn that the people most likely to really help me in a complicated situation are young women, yes, must be young and must be woman, once they have the right combination of vital factors: kindness, more likely to be willing to help, don’t cheat foreigners with faked information, are not in the tourism/transportation related jobs, and know a little bit of English (old women or young men not, in general). I sighted one waiting for the public bus and walk strait there. The first information from her confirmed immediately the fakeness of the tickets the monkey-guys tried to sell me. She invited to enter the same bus she was taking, to the city center, many kilometers away from there. Meanwhile she would explain me out to get to Banka-Belitung Islands. So she did, with all the details: street where to find hotel to stay in Palembang nearby the street leading to the harbor, harbor name, name of the ferry company, schedule, prices for different classes, and much much more… In the bus was decided that I would leave it in the company of other 2 girls who had more or less the same destination like me. When I saw the road plate with the name of the harbor written on it, plus several hotels around me, I said the girls it was enough, they could go, I had took too much time of their life and I would be able to do the rest for myself. They insisted that was a big pleasure to help me and that they wanted and had plenty of time to follow me until get a place to sleep! Wonderful girls! 🙂 In the next minutes we checked several hotels together until find one cheap and with available rooms. Then they went away happy and smiling… 🙂

FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF PALEMBANG

I guess there are not many foreigners coming to this city, Palembang! Everybody was completely shocked staring at me. People stopping to walk, stopping the motorbike, friends calling other friends, all that just to look at me! Ahahahah, what a mad situation! :p It was already quite late and I didn’t have a lot of time before the sunset, but still, I walked and I saw enough to conclude that Palembang, although not particularly beautiful, quite noisy and very polluted, it had something special (you can call “a soul”, if you want) that made me feel at home, welcomed, and willing to stay longer. Back in the hotel I informed the receptionist that I would stay not 1 night but 2 nights…

THE BIG DAY

Indeed, Palembang is a very big city, a megalopolis if you want. Only when I walked on the bridge I got the idea of its real size, and later confirmed on Google Earth that is even bigger than what could I see from there. I loved the way until the river, passing by colorful street markets with smiley people, but really great was the ambience full of life in the riverside. Small restaurant and bars (some of them in boats), nice marginal to walk nearby the river and an amazingly huge amount of boats to carry passenger to the other side of the river, to carry goods, and also big ones going down the river with all kind of stuff (like motorbikes or coal).

I crossed the river to the south part of the city, where I finally visited real poor slums suspended on water. I had seen it in the buses and trains, and I was willing to enter one. The streets were completely dirty and smelly, but the small suspended paths were very interesting and useful, allowing me to reach the wooden houses in the river and meet its lovely and wonderful people. People that were very happy to see me but also very chocked. I was probably one of the first foreigners to enter in these hidden slums. I got quite tired from replying all the “Hellos”, but I was able to understand the situation, how excited they were! :p Specially the kids, touching me with a finger to “see if I was real”! Ahaha. And what a party they made when they saw me taking the camera out of the bag. All wanted to be photographed, but there was dozens of them!!! A kind woman who saw me looking surprised to a kind of cookies drying under the sun, told me to follow her through the narrow suspended paths until her home where several people were working in the different stages of the “cookies” production! Wonderful surprise! 🙂 Another big family, seeing me sweeting a lot, invited me to enter their home to take a refreshing drink. However, I staid much longer after have finished the drink, so we had plenty of time to try to communicate and make pictures of each other. The girls took their mobile phones and one by one took pictures with me to upload on facebook! :p Only when I went out of the slums I realized that several hour had already passed by… I had the feeling it was been only several minutes!

Palembang is a mega city, completely non-touristic, forgotten on the middle of nowhere, and surely the best place I found to experience the real Indonesia lifestyle… no kids barging for money, no mad ojek guys, no tourist agencies or any other kind with people offering me what I don’t need/want… Shocked or at the least surprised people for seeing me, kindly showing me places and offering me stuff I didn’t ask for, just for the place to communicate and share life with the strange guy… 🙂 In the other hand, and as expected, the language barrier was very big in Palembang. About internet, very slow connections and very hard to find the few existing internet cafés. My conclusion is that Palembang, although has daily bus connections to the capital, it seems to be disconnected from the outside world, offering a unique human landscape from another era (exception to the city center, of course). Definitely highly recommended for traveller, but not for tourists, there no attraction there for these last ones! :p

SLOWLY COMMUNICATING IN INDONESIAN

At the evening I had a problem to solve. I would take a jet foil (fast ferry) in the next early morning at Bom Baru Harbor, as the girl told me one day ago in the bus terminal. People had told me that there are not public buses at early morning, so I would need an ojek! Yah, an ojek! So, I went to the hotel’s reception looking for somebody able to speak Basic English. There were 5 guys, anyone able to say a single word in English! Great!. :p I took a long breath at start to explain my situation in Indonesia (my faked Indonesian), writing down in a paper every idea we had understood from each other. After 10 minutes I succeeded to get an ojek for 20000rp (people in the streets had told me 30000 but I barged) and convince one of the waiters to wake me up at 5,45am, once I didn’t had alarm clock. After a taught dialogue, it was time for fun and photo session with this great guys working in the hotel! :p

DAMN OJEK DRIVERS

It was supposed to be a 15 minutes trip from the city center to Bom Baru harbor, but it took only 3 minutes, a walking distance! Ahahaha! It should be a maximum of 5000rp, or simply walk! Yah, but when you are a foreign having no idea, after had listening several people confirming the big distance and the big price… Anyway… In the tickets office they asked me for 250.000rp for the trip Palembang-Muntok! It was told me the price was 135.000rp, and I said that to them, but they said the price for me was that! “For me, what does it means?” “Mmmm, vip class, aircondition, blablabla..”! Rrrrrr, who told them I need that, why for me, for being white and foreign! Silly, very silly people. I asked cheaper, they offered 175.000rp for executive class. Lol. I said, no way, I don’t go unless you give me a real ticket, a cheap common one. Believe me fellow readers, they didn’t want to sell me the cheap one without aircondition! I was about to give up and go back to the city, when eventually they sold it to me for 150.000rp, not 135.000. Why this difference of price? Well, I got used with these situations, so I looked carefully when giving the money. The ojek guy was there and in a very fast movement got 15.000 from the hand of the woman in the tickets office. A kind of commission! But commission for what? He didn’t help them to find a client. I found him to bring me there and I bought the ticket by myself. He was already paid for his job: to bring me from the hotel until the harbor!!! So, this mother fucker made 35000rp less than 5 minutes. 3€! People in Portugal take 1 hour working to make 3€! Then call me greed foreign! I call this people organized mafia! You see now why I hate ojek guys and everything related to them!


 
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Posted by on May 5, 2011 in Indonesia

 

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Central Java (Jawa Tengah)


Surakarta: Although with time Surakarta (Solo) became my favorite urban place in the whole Indonesia, it didn’t started very well with this city. I had a positive couchsurfing reply that changed a few minutes before my arrival by train. It was all settled down with my host, I supposed. The strange thing was the SMS she sent me during the day asking me to tell her when I would arrive. I thought she meant “at what time”, but when we talked by mobile phone, on the train, she said she left the city once I didn’t reply confirming if I “would come today or not”! Uoh, going hard couchsurfing here. Of course I would come, and why ask about arriving day if I wrote it TWICE in the request! I didn’t answer the message because I was waiting to know the arriving HOUR to do so, as you can imagine… anyway, that’s life…

Life is easy, I believe, when we are in a good mood and when we love to travel. So, I left the train station, looking for an internet café. Checked my couchsurfing mail box, I was already in peace with Solo! I had another positive reply sent to me just a few hours ago. I copy the number, called the girl, Nana to explain where I was and 5 minutes later she was there to pick me up with her bike! 🙂 The thing is I went out the train in the right station, in the same neighborhood she lives. Definitely in peace with Solo (Surakarta)! 🙂

Nana is a wonderful person, lovely, kind and always willing to help, even if it means to make her life busier and more complicated. Besides that, she lives in the most welcoming neighborhood of this wonderful and charming city. I call this street the “smiling street”, due to the happy and kind body language of people there! 🙂 And that’s not all. Nana shares a house with a group of foreign students, remembering the “Erasmus life”. Ah, what I would do to stay here months, not 3 days…  I didn’t meet the Russian girls, she was travelling, but on the first day Nana and I joined the North American guy watching a movie recommended by him at Nana’s room: Szamanka, by Andrzej Zulawsky, Poland.

Besides them, they were a few more guys living in the house: A Singaporean guy, an Indonesian and also a Brazilian called Publio. With him I had not only the first opportunity to speak in Portuguese since the beginning of the trip. Much more in fact, I got a new and very kind friend, a lovey and happy person that I enjoyed a lot to talk with and to share time doing the little and insignificant thinks of life. For instance, washing my clothes while he was drinking tea, always talking (in Portuguese)! 🙂 Ah, and undoubtedly a very useful connection to learn about Solo with no need to think and express myself in a foreign language! 🙂 Probably the best time we spent together was in the second day, when I helped him to prepare an Italian meal, gnocchi, to celebrate in group the birthday of a Uruguayan friend of him. For the lunch came also an Indonesia-Argentine couple very friendly too. So, the communication was very weird there: English, Portuguese-Portugal, Portuguese-Brazil, Indonesian, Javanese and Latin-American Spanish! Coooooooool! :p

It can sound strange but it is true: food and drinks are much cheaper here in the big cities of Central Java than in the far east islands. I guess the reason is the cost added to bring good for islands where production is almost inexistent, except for bananas, bamboo and fishes. :p For instance, the prices for a meal could go from 10000rp to 15000rp in Flores, and a coffee would cost 4000/5000rp. Here in Solo it’s possible to get a good meal from 4000rp to 8000rp, and a coffee costs only 2000rp! Ah, 1€ = 12000rp.

It is so joyful to walk around the street of Solo, either in the center or in the forgotten neighborhoods! People are incredibly friendly and smiley, and really authentic. I feel I’m finally treated as a foreign human being welcomed in their place, not a “walking wallet”! :p Ah, I wish I could stay forever in this dream city! But don’t get to enthusiastic about, no city is perfect. There’s a plague of guitar and (other instruments player) constantly asking for money, and Solo is also the first city were I find people asking for money in the streets, the same way we can find in Europe. I mean, not like those in the far east islands who ask money exclusively to foreigners (even if they have more money than the visitor), but the really homeless people we can find everywhere in this planet.

In the second day in Solo I take a long walk in the central zone, to visit some historical attraction like the main palace (Kraton Surakarta), and also several street markets (like Pasar Klewer). For my surprise, and probably due to Portuguese influence, I found Catholic churches and even a shop with religious statues (Holly Mary, Jesus, several saints, etc). There are also protestant churches and those, I guess, have Dutch influence. Randomly walking through the street of Solo, I had the chance to find a live performance of traditional Javanese dances. It was like a contest for young girls and teenagers. Wonderful colorful show, for free, where I spent a lot of time enjoying the show itself, but also making pictures of the little girls preparing the makeup, talking with the organized who told me was also a dancer and studied in the same art school where Nana is now studying! When I was about to leave the place, a very big rain storm started suddenly, so I was forced to change my original plan, staying the rest of the afternoon there, and leaving the north part of the center for the next day. About the rain, hopefully a neighbor of Nana saw my clothes drying outside and took it inside Nana’s home just before start to rain! What a great and helpful people! Really! 🙂

The third day was definitely the one for the “western pleasures”! :p At the morning Publio kindly offered me bread, butter and milk for my breakfast! Ahhhh, bread and butter, what a lux! And how much I was missing it! The lunch was Italian, the gnocchi I told you about. In the afternoon I found for the first time in Indonesia a real bakery where I both a small chocolate cake (ate in the local) and a big one that I shared at night with Nana, Publio and other home mates. Ahhh, and a Brazilian pleasure: while cooking and eating, the music playing on Publio’s laptop was Bossa Nova and Chico Buarque songs! Just my very favorite ones! And by the way, Publio and the Uruguayan girls also like Fernando Pessoa and know the poem “To Travel! To Leave Countries!”. 🙂

The third day was also de one of the longer walk around the city, when I had innumerous opportunities to enjoy the kindness of Surakarta citizens.  Differently from other Indonesian cities, here their compliments to me were very kind ones: a shy smile or, at most, a genuine smile! Innumerous were also the streets, buildings and monuments I saw during this day. One I kept in my memory was a very big catholic church, not particularly for its architecture, but for the immense crowd of faithful who made necessary to install hundreds of chairs in the outside of the church, and still, there was not seats for all of them! Other detail that took my attention was the strong security measures take in place in the church and in the street that surrounds it, many policemen and private securities, and a feeling of tension in the air.  Why? I really don’t know, and I bet it is unnecessary and a kind of paranoia of the Indonesian Catholics. But I may be wrong…

Around 5pm, 30 minutes delayed from what Nana had asked me for, I finally found and arrived in the big Hindu Temple were she should be practicing traditional Javanese dances. Hopefully I got there on time to watch a 40 minutes dance from the beginning! :p The place had a magic atmosphere… then, with the wonderful traditional music, all these teenagers and women dancing their extremely complex but beautiful dances, and the darkness from the rain storm… simply to special to transcribe here in tangible words…

Late in the evening I had my last opportunity to attend a live performance: a kind of satiric play (I supposed from their expressions and the laughs from the assistant) with only actresses. Nana, who joined me, told me the reason for this play was the Day of Women’s Emancipation. Ahh, I wonder what they were saying about men, and what were they laughing oft… :p

A last sentence about Surakarta: when I took the bus out from there, I was very sad, with a nostalgic feeling for leaving behind the city that I fall in love with. For all reasons possible Surakarta is the place where I want to live for a while when I came back to Indonesia, and then I even will have friends waiting for me! 🙂 Dreaming about the day when it will become true…

Prambanan: April 24th, 9am, was the moment I left my beloved Surakarta with an immense feeling of being doing it too prematurely. At the least, I though, it was for a very good reason: to visit the world famous Hindu Temple of Prambanan. In the other hand, it couldn’t be easier to do it: I took a bus in the main road right in front of Nana’s neighborhood, and left the bus in front of Prambanan Temple! :p By the way, I followed the Uruguayan girl advice, asking for a student ticket in the bus and they gave me one, so the price of it was ridiculously cheap for a 2 hours trip (5000rp). Still with the Uruguayan girl advices, I asked for a student ticket in the entrance of Prambanan Park, showing them my ISIC card. In my opinion every foreign should bring and ISIC card, faked or real one, because the prices to enter in Prambanan are insanely high for foreigners! The ticket for a national costs 30.000rp (2,5€). For foreigners the prices are showed in dollars:, 13$ for an adult, 7$ for student!!! Cheating foreigners on this way, sure they deserve to be cheated by guys like me! They also have different ticket offices and different entrance for locals and foreigners. In the aristocratic foreigners’ entrance, there were “free” drinks, air condition and western style toilets with toilet paper! When I complain on their outrage behavior about, they argued I couldn’t complain due to the better conditions offered to foreigners! Ahahahahah! Unbelievable! Air condition for what, I came for the Prambanan Temple, not for the entrance! Free drinks not for sure, with that money I could by a whole drinks’ shop. Indonesia style toilet wouldn’t be a problem for me, but toilet paper is a precious good while traveling (especially in Muslim countries where is hard to find it), so I stole as much as I could pack inside my camera bag! :p

One of the first things I noticed when I was walking towards the temple, and already in the temple square, was that for the Indonesian visitors the main attractions were to take pictures of foreigners, to take pictures of themselves with foreigners and finally to take “I have been here” pictures. About interest on the temples, mmmm, I’m not so sure! Hehe :p By the way, I was one of the photographed foreigners, but I also took pictures of them! 🙂

About Prambanan, it is not every day that I have the chance to visit a Hindu temple from the 9th century, one of the largest in the whole South East Asia and really impressive for its complexity, beauty and for the 47 meters high on its central structure! For me (and I guess for almost all western visitors too), to be in such outstanding construction surrounded by an exotic tropical forest, it gives the feeling of being literally in other world! Very hard to describe! 🙂

The dark side of it: the restoring works seem to be stopped for a quite long time already, with and tools and wood structures abandoned next to the temples. Around the main temple at the center there’s a rusty metal fence avoiding the visitors to get inside this one. It is a big deception to not enter in the main temple dedicated to Shiva, where there are still statues of the main Hindu gods. I could understand and accept if I would find real works going on there. Otherwise not. The temples would be better without the “ghost” works, once we wouldn’t find the ugly stuff spread around it and visitors would be able to enter in every temple! And the question is: where is going all the money they steal from foreigners’ visitors? Even to pay somebody to clean a little better the park (quite disgusting), there’s no money left from the foreigners’ tickets!?! What a shameful situation… I guess they spent all the money with the quad race track, the playground with an electric mini railways and train, and in all those restaurants and other tourist attractions nearby the entrance. Who needs that stuff when there’s the impressive Prambanan temple to visit plus 3 smaller ones inside the same park? Believe me or not, those silly tourist attractions where full of people. On the 2nd and 3rd temple I sighted nobody. In the 4th and last one I found 6 persons! Yah, I counted them!

The names of the 2nd and 3rd temples are, respectively: Lumbung and Bubrah. Lumbung is really damaged and needs urgent restoring works before it gets too late. The restoring stuff is there, but looks abandoned for ages. Bubrah, the third, is almost completely destroyed; it is more a heap of stones than a temple, unfortunately. Anyway these 2 temples are really tiny. The real interest is on the 4th.

 The 4th and more distant from Prembanan is the Sewu Temple. Hopefully the central part of it is in a very good stage of conservation, but the same cannot be said for the side structures, completely in ruins.  Sewu is not as high as Prambanan, but believe me, it is also a real wonder, especially for the complexity of its structures and paths. The inner side of the central temple still has interesting statues. Its dark dense atmosphere and a very characteristic smell made me feeling to be entering in another dimension, or being in another age… Really great experience to visit this last temple of the park! Only negative aspect is that I found several terrible blocks terribly “restored”. Actually “deteriorated”, once we can’t call it restoration when somebody replaces a missing part of an Intaglio with a flat stone block (with a completely different color); To randomly put together blocs, some of them upside down is also not a restoring work, and I found many like that! Yah, it’s a pity, once the Sewu Temple is real wonderful…

Already walking towards the exit gates, I had the chance to find (and watch for a while) one more live performance of traditional Javanese dances performed my a group of young women, with the traditional music being also played live by a group of older folks! 🙂

Klaten: My plan was to visit Prambanan during the day and then move towards Yogyakarta, the capital city of the kingdom special region with the same name. However, while visiting Prambanan, I got a message from my next couchsurfing guest telling he would come to Yogyakarta only in the next day, once he decided to stay the weekend in his hometown with the family. Said so, he invited me to stay the night there with his family, at Klaten, a small city 20 minutes away by bus. Of course I accepted! :p Klaten was very close and it will not change barely nothing from my plan of arriving at the end of the day at Yogyakarta with no time to start explore it in the first day.

His family’s house was very big and well decorated, but was shared will a lot of relatives. In the short time I spent there I had the pleasure to meet his grandmother and his mother, two aunts, the younger brother and several cousins. From the very beginning I was presented with an immense kindness and hospitality, everybody smiling and curious, and a lot of stuff in the living room table in front of me: tea, boxes with different kind of biscuits, cakes and food brought from a wedding… ah, and the kitchen table had already food waiting for me too! Amazing! 🙂 The communication was the hardest part (but funny and joyful), with the grandmother keep talking and talking with me in Indonesian, regardless my attempts to explain her that I was not understanding anything! :p With the aunts was funny too, with me trying to use the few words I know in Indonesian and them the few ones they knew in English…

In the next day, early morning, I took the breakfast and a picture with Andra’s family and the two of us left Klaten in his motorbike, moving towards several temples not far away from there. Andra was planning to show me more, but at the end were “just” 3, due to the time running out and his obligation to attend classes at the university (in Yogyakarta). Still, to travel by motorbike in the countryside, crossing endless rice fields illuminated with the first and magic light of the day, with the impressive and steamy Berapi volcano in the horizon, … it was surely one of the best experiences in the whole trip! The temples were also very interesting and different from the ones I visited previously in Prambanan. My favorite was one built under the level of the ground, and with the central temple really underground! Uoh, what an amazing and unique place! 🙂 It is important to inform that those temples are almost completely unknown from the foreigners and, therefore, the prices of tickets are not artificially inflated: only 2000rp (16 cents) per temple!

Yogyakarta:Around 9am Andra and I arrived finally in the world famous city of Yogyakarta! My curiosity to start exploring it was enormous; Andra was already delayed for is classes. The solution was pretty simple: he left me at the very center of the city, in the Malioboro Street, and when strait to the university. The only bad think about not having time to pass by his house was the need to care my bag for the whole day. Well, for some reason I call myself a backpacker, not a tourist! Lol… For the first day in the city I did it quite well: the main Palace, other palace, the Vredeburg Dutch fortress, the main street market of Malioboro, a house with the traditional handcraft of Batik tissues… I can say I checked almost the whole city center. Besides that, I went near the main river where I wanted to sight again (I saw it when passing by motorbike with Andra) the slum style neighborhoods of houses piled on each other in the most unexpected ways until the river side, defying gravity…  Ah, what a superb view, a sight back to other era, unbelievable beautiful…

The human side of this first in Yogyakarta was also very rich. The live music performance in the main palace made me get mentally more close to the people here, more involved, like it had helped me to merge myself in this society, in this social environment… It can sound strange what I’m saying but that’s the way I felt it… Then (probably because of the mood I got from the music) the communication with the groups of Indonesian teenagers visiting the palace was really great: I never thought it would be so easy to chat with these girls dressed in a conservative Muslim way. I think our western minds, mine included, are fulfill of prejudices about Muslim women. This time was different, I was on the mood to try to talk with them, and for my big surprise they were willing even more. They were very talkative, with plenty of questions about me and my “world”, and quite more daring with their remarks than what I expected, like “you are very awesome”! “Ahaha, me? Sure…” I was answering. :p Besides the curiosity towards each other, we also shared the willing to take pictures together. I got some nice shot with my camera. About the girls, all had camera on the mobile phones and took many pictures too. I guess my face will be appearing soon in many Indonesian facebook profiles! :p

Other social situation that I enjoyed happened in the main market where I was trying to buy new slippers, once I forgot mines in Banyuwangi, and my shoes were ready to be dumped in the trash. So, I begun by a bad quality slipper made. The woman asked me 35ooorp, too much money for plastic ones. I was not planning to buy it, but still, for fun I asked her to drop the price to 30000rp. Completely impossible to convince her to do so! After checking several shoes shops, I finally found something I really liked: a pair of cool slippers made on leather and with good rubber soles. The guy asked 60.000rp, I said ok, sorry but it is too much money for me and start to walk away. The guy followed me and said: 40.000rp! I said ok, let me try it first. While trying I remember that I may not have enough money in my wallet. I check and found 35000rp in bills and a 500rp coin. I showed the wallet and said I was not joking; I swore I really had only those 35500rp and asked if he could make that price to me. He accepted the 35000rp; he didn’t take the coin! :p

As promised to my host, Andra, at the end of the afternoon I came next to the train station seeking for the place he told me we could take a special but cheap charcoal coffee! Not very far away from the right spot I asked help to a kind Indonesian couple. Already knowing the meeting place, feeling a little bit hungry and with still one hour to wait for Andra, I decided to look for a cheap meal. This lovely couple (Aya and Imron) was looking for the same, so we seated together, enjoying a very interesting conversation while tasting for the first time a charcoal coffee. When Andra arrived, with changed plans, I was very sad to leave my new “friends”… Hopefully, thanks to the communications tools of the modern world, I keep in contact with them, waiting for more opportunities to become a real friend of them! 🙂 By motorbike Andra took me to other part of the city to drink charcoal coffee and meet his friend and couchsurfing addicted Alisa. This evening, shared with Andra and Alisa, talking about Asia and Europe, about travelling in both continents, exchanging very useful information (for instance, tips to teach English in Thailand or Cambodia), was undoubtedly one of the most joyful ones in my trip. Especially for the always smiling and very talkative Alisa, a wonderful person! 🙂

In the next day morning Andra had a great surprise for me: around 6am he took me on his motorbike, driving around 15km until a strangely beautiful beach, with dark sand and “big waves”. Due to the early morning hour, the unique light, the smog and the shadows helped to make it an even more surreal landscape to my eyes. Breathtaking sight, joyful morning, refreshing bath in the south Java coast, perfect… The way back I was the driver. Ah, what a madness!  Immense traffic, driving in the “wrong” side, motorbike with no space for my long legs to reach the gears… still, it was really cool, and I drove it until the city center, her Andra left me.

This second day was the one I walked the longest distance in the whole trip, surely, but was not that hard, once I did it slowly, taking time to make pictures, playing with children, talking with the lovely people of this city and even fix the errors in the city map I had in my hands (like wrong orthography, a wrong streets name between 2 correct ones, strait lines that shouldn’t be that strait… Indonesian maps… :p). Still, for the whole day I went to every place I planned and never got lost.

For the end of the day was reserved the first big nightmare of the trip: After had walked during half day, with new slippers but slowly and with many stops, I was physically very tired but feeling ok and in a very good mood, having only the feet on the very limit of a reasonable effort. According with the map I had, and keeping the proportions, I found possible to make the rest of the way back to Andra’s home, and that’s the reason why I stay on the road until night. Everything was going well with the map until the street right before the one where is situated Andra’s home. Right proportions, right distances, everything ok.  I was feeling exhausted and the feet were starting to hurt, but I thought everything was alright, with only one more street to do… But not, the west ring road was not shown proportionally, and what seemed to be 200 or 300 meter became many kilometers, my feet got completely destroyed and the only option was keep walking, once at the night there’s not public transportation and the ojek (motorbike taxi) guys that I always avoid were not showing up now, when I was ready to pay doesn’t meter how much to get rid of this nightmare…

Borobudur: Once again, right in front of my couchsurfing home’s host, I was able to take a bus strait to my next destination: the world wonder of Borobudur. The landscape on the way, a few kilometers before the arrival was quite scary: hundreds of houses completely destroyed by the big floods of the last year (European media showed it at that time) and tones of black ashes from Berapi volcano spread out through the streets, farms, rice fields and, of course, partially burying the remaining houses. A good sight was the one of the many artists sculpturing amazing statues on the road side. Not simple stuff, but really artistic works.

Because of the mad walk I did yesterday, my feet were completely damaged and I was in big pain, with the characteristic bubbles, but this time a lot and very big. In a normal situation back in Portugal I would be resting for 1 or 2 days. However, I was there, in front of Borobudur, with a unique opportunity to see one of the best human kind works, so I made a big effort to keep going on. For the first time in the trip I searched for a bicycle taxi. The guy said 10000rp for the “remaining” 5km. Lol. I could see the park’s fences at the end of the short road! I asked to a young guy passing by, he told me it was 2km. I really doubted but once the bicycle guy, listening this conversation, dropped the price to 5ooorp, I accepted, so I would rest my feet for a while. 500 meters further we were at the entrance! Ahahaha, of course… :p There’s definitely many troubles with number here in Indonesia: for lunch I asked a Nasi Goreng (5000rp), an extra egg (1000rp) and a coffee (2000rp). When I called the woman to pay my bill she asked for 10000rp instead of 8000rp. Ah, too spoiled by the “throwing out money” tourists. I paid the 8000rp.

Again the stealing system: the tickets for foreigners are insanely high: 72.000rp for students and 135.ooo for the rest. I got the student one, complaining and asking them if they didn’t feel ashamed of such disgusting behavior.  While being robbed in the ticket office a “guide” came to offer me his services for “only” 60.000rp! Ah, I lost control, and asked them why not simply take by wallet by force! Easy and fast! And bigger profit! Somebody there told me to relax and enjoying from the free coffee/tea and water bottles. Free!?! Lol. But sure, I took a coffee and took several FREE water bottles to put in my bag… Let’s analyze this differentiated ticket prices in Indonesia. A European traveller with limited budget, who sleeps in the cheapest hotels or in the roadside, and eat always in the cheapest places, must pay 135.ooorp. An Indonesian millionaire from Jakarta only needs to pay 20.000rp. I don’t’ care about an entrance with air condition, western style toilet and “free” drinks but maybe an Indonesian millionaire does. So, in what is based this behavior? I’m really sorry for my Indonesian friends but I must say the true, the factual true: this is racism! For instance, after I have paid my ticket, a French guy living in Indonesia and married with an Indonesian woman asked for a national ticket. They refused, giving only to her. Ahhh, come on, doing that they just contradicted the only argument they gave me so far for the differentiated prices: the Indonesians pay less because they already pay taxes for that! Ah, and the French guy doesn’t pay taxes working and living here for ages? Silly childish rhetoric…

Once again, about the temple itself, I think it is better to watch the pictures than read my words that will never get close to the reality, even if I would write in my mother tongue, Portuguese. Sure I can say that both the temple and the view from the top of it are “wonderful” and “breathtaking”. Definitely true, but at the same time simple clichés that can’t transmit feelings, the feeling of being in such special place for human kind… Still, I love it for many reasons, once it is quite complex. The first levels are interesting for the intaglio sculptures of voluptuous women with naked breasts and for the intaglio sculptures showing big crowds coming with elephant and horses bringing gifts and offerings. From the base until the top it is also possible to find many good statues of Buddha, some still very well preserved. And then there’s the top, nice spot to sight the impressive tropical forest growing in the surrounding mountains, but with its main attraction in the inner side, the famous and innumerous “bell” shaped constructions with statues of Buddha inside. There was the place I chose to stay for a while, enjoying and inset this special place. Hopefully I was not alone, for more than one hour I stayed there talking with a very interesting French woman who was making a similar trip as mine (6 months and the same countries), and who had travel stories also resembling mines! 🙂

When walking down the temple I listened something that usually sounds me interesting, but this time was completely inappropriate: the loud Muslim praying coming out from the minarets of the mosque built in the park area! Come on! I was told to wear some special clothes in order to have authorization to visit the temple. Of course I accepted, it is naturally for me to adapt myself to a place and respect the local religious traditions, here or in a mosque in Syria, for instance. So what about them, the Muslim majority in Indonesia, why not to respect that place and understand that it doesn’t make sense to contemplate a Buddha statue listening “Allah Akbar”!

Walking down and towards the exit, I was confronted with a contradiction. My sense of orientation was telling me to move in one direction but the exit boards were point to a completely different direction. Not the first time, so I guessed they do it to force the tourist to pass by somewhere with souvenirs shops, a museum with entrance to pay, or some other touristic attraction. My willing was to follow my instinct, but with so many fences, narrow roads without visibility, I couldn’t take the risk, considering how damaged were my feet, so I follow the arrows leading to the trap. Ahhh, an endless zigzag of narrow streets with the plastic roofs touching my head, fulfilled with ridiculous souvenirs shops and a multitude of taught seller, often ironic and impolite for those who pass by without say nothing or buy them a souvenir. This multitude of primitive minds couldn’t stop to call me mister, asking me to buy something, even pushing me back grabbing my shoulders or arms. And remember I barely could walk. What a nightmare, for the social situation and for the distance 3 times longer due to the zigzags! I don’t know why but those kinds of people really can’t understand that my absolute and very long silence meant “No!” for their propositions! So, sadly, I was once again forced to be rude, replying them with words they didn’t liked to listen and taking out their hands of my body aggressively! Come on, a silent and quiet guy making a big effort to keep walking, and you don’t let him breathe and you push him to almost loose balance with the injured feet! Ahhh, primitive people this souvenirs’ sellers, they can’t see a human being, only walking money…

So, Borobudur is definitely worth to visit. One of the most exquisite places I ever been. I love it and I recommend it, but be prepare for the social nightmare… :p

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2011 in Indonesia

 

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East Java (Jawa Timur)


16th April: Enrico (the Italian guy) lives in Ketapang but offered to make 8km more to leave me in Banyuwangi, where was supposed to have a couchsurfing host waiting for me. As I had told him, I arrived exactly at 8pm there. I sent him a message and, for my surprise, he replied telling me he actually lives in other place. I asked Enrico where was that place: 30km away, a very small town!!! Are this guys crazy here!?! How did he expected me to find a way to get there, at night? Doesn’t he live in Indonesia and therefore isn’t him aware of the impossibility to find a public transportation at that hour, special to a small place? And why didn’t he told me before? Definitely something is not well with couchsurfing here in Indonesia. Hopefully Enrico knows very well the zone, so he drove me back to Ketapang to leave me in a good and very cheap hotel, right in front of the train station, with very nice people with who I finally started to enjoy and practicing the little I know of Indonesian Language! 🙂

17th April: After a relaxing morning at the hotel, where I restarted my joyful conversation with the employees and where I checked their newspapers (to discover pictures and news of Benfica, Porto, Cristiano Ronaldo and José Mourinho), I went out to make an also relaxing and slow walking, taking all the time needed to pay attention on details, once I was really on the right mood to take pictures. The visit to the harbor and the beach was interesting, as well as cross the whole Ketapang, where hopefully no troubles happened at all; it was waiting for me in Banyuwangi. Why? Well, I already understood that is better not ask bemo (public mini-bus) prices because they will ask more that the real price. Ask passengers usually is also not a good idea because sometimes they lie too, telling a higher price. The best is to pay attention on the money passengers have prepared to pay, and to give the same. That’s was what I did when I arrived in Banyuwangi, giving to the driver 2500rp. He asked me 10000rp! I said “you are insane, this woman was already in the bemo when I entered and paid 2500rp!” Then he said, no, no everybody pays 5000, give 5000rp! He and the other guys where so aggressive that I had no option but to give the 5000rp… Among this bemo, oje and taxi-bikes there’s really a mentality of greediness, dishonesty and of extorting money from foreigns…

In the other hand, Banyuwangi, a city not particularly beautiful, as plenty of hidden surprises to explore. The only way to find those surprises is to walk, a lot, crossing the whole city, and get into the narrow street of the traditional and poor neighborhoods, where smiling and welcoming will easily invite the stranger to seat and talk for a while. The only not good impression I had from doing so, was to see a mother of a 12 years old girl calling me rich and offering the little child to marry me!

Again a good memory from Banyuwangi: the immensely colorful street market and the park nearby, where people not even was saying yes every time I ask to take a picture, but also asking me, even imploring me  to take a picture of them, smiling, playing with their goods (fruits &vegetables) or making funny grimaces! :p Actually almost everybody was nice and kind to me, exception made to the  “special group”… Because of that, but also due to my willing to calmly explore the zone, I decided to walk back the 10km separating me from the hotel I was staying in the neighbor city of Ketapang. Good decision I made, to explore the city life is interesting, but there’s some kind of jobs, buildings and human attitudes only possible to find in the outskirts of it, or even only in the half empty roads that connect to big cities…  🙂  Eventually I didn’t walk all the way. One of the guys from the hotel recognized me and stopped to offer me a ride. Feeling completely exhausted and already tired of taking pictures, his invitation sounded to me like a gift falling from the sky, so I accepted and made the last 3km on his bike…

18th April: The morning begun with the last visit of Enrico who came to copy the pictures I made in the 2 days trip with him. Once he speaks fluent Indonesian and the train station was right in front of the hotel, I asked him a last help: to check train schedules and by the ticket for me! What a great man, a wonderful person who I feel extremely happy for have met. With all the explanations he gave me about the trains in Indonesia, in general, and specifically in Ketapang, a few minutes later, was my turn to help and explain it to a couple of Australians, who eventually took the same train as me and joined me in a exchange of ideas about Indonesia and Turkey for about 1 hour. Why Turkey? One of them is going to make a 3 weeks trip there; Turkey is my favorite country; so I gave her all the information and tips possibly, explaining how wrong is to follow the common prejudices about that country…

Cool thing on the train: the tiny hot biscuit/cakes with banana or chocolate filling, and its price: 0,8cents! Yes, less than a euro cent! :p

My plan was to come to Probolinggo and take a bus from here to Cemoro Lawang, the village nearby the active volcano called Bromo. The problem was that with all the delays I arrived to late in Probolinggo, so I as forced to stay overnight and obliged to reorganize my schedule to Java. A guy in a shop made me a map to the only hotel he knew, and with it I got there, only to confirm what I realized from the luxe in the outside: far too expensive! Hopefully the receptionists were very kind and made me another map to a cheaper one. After a few kilometers walking and a short bicycle ride from a kind guy, I got into Paramita Hotel, less that half price than the previous, but still quite expensive. Once I haven’t seen no other hotels in several kilometers of road and because it was already very late in the night I decided to stay. After dinner I walked through the dark and sinister street of the neighborhood for a while, coming back to the room just on time to kill the 4cm cockroach that was now unprotectedly still in the middle of the floor, and easy target to my shoe… :p

19th April: Staying only one night in the same place as the inconvenient of being oblige to care the bag in my backs for the rest of the day, so I decided to stay in the hotel until the last minute to check-out (12am), using this time to write and to take the double breakfast thy had for me. I told the waiter it was a mistake, I was alone, but he said i had the right to receive 2 because i was paying a 2 persons room. Cool, I wish everybody else would think this way! 🙂 And what a breakfast! One was already to make me full! :p

I was not that interested on Probolinggo city; crowd, noise and pollution everywhere; and I should not be too late in the terminal to take a bus to Cemoro Lawang. Besides all that, I decided to walk as much as possible, crossing the core of the city where they have some funny plastic animal and trees, beautiful during the day, but magic during the night with the light coming from the inside. When I concluded it was already too much of walking under the burning sun, I stopped in a roadside bar to drink a tasty and fresh fruit juice for 25 cents, and to ask about distance to the terminal and correspondent price of the bemo. From the very same place and with the useful information I went by bemo until the terminal where I found a desperate USA/French couple also willing to go to Cemoro Lawang, but not ready to pay the whole bus (once nobody else was going to there). They invited me to joined them and divide the price, making 50000rp each. The regular price is 25000rp per person, but it was getting late and there was no sight of people willing to join us, so we accepted. The good thing was to have the whole bus empty, so I took a bench only for me, opened the windows on both sides and took all the pictures I wanted! :p

About 1 hour later, with a crazy driver crossing the roads full of volcano ashes on a mad speed, we were finally at the top of Cemoro Lawang village, right in front of the active volcano that we couldn’t sight, due to the heavy clouds and the rain. There I checked the first hotel: incredibly dirty, smelly, broken windows (with 5ºC at night!), a nightmare bathroom, no breakfast neither coffee and very rude and stupid receptionists. And the price was a joke: 100.000rp/night! I said that for those conditions I wouldn’t even pay 50.000rp. They rudely offer 80.000rp; I went away, while they kept offending me. Not far away I found a guesthouse: clean, cool, with a nice living room, tea and coffee for free and unlimited… and the best, the owner was an old but cleaver man able to speak English, always smiling, very kind and very helpful. The price 70.000, and I managed to drop it to 60.000! Just perfect! 🙂

The rest of the evening and night at the guesthouse was very interesting, once I met a Dutch and an English couple who had been in Australia and New Zealand, and gave me a lot of tips about travelling and working there. It may be useful information for later! :p For dinner they opted to go to the expensive and western style restaurant, so I joined other guy from France to eat in a local stile (and cheap) one. While having dinner we decided to climb together in the next early morning the mountain with the sightseeing of Bromo. 3.45am, once we were very ambitious and we wanted to reach the second level where almost nobody goes and were we would be in a much higher latitude than the active volcanoes nearby: around 2800 meters. Before go sleep I go enough courage to take a mandi (Indonesian shower) with frozen water and 5ºC outside! What a shock, after all these time with tropical weather! :p

20th April: Yesterday we had asked to some local if the fullmoon light would be enough strong to let us see the road to climb the mountain. They told us that “no, it would be impossible and we would need a guide to get there”! Yah, sure… At 3.50am the French guy and I departed with no troubles at all to find the way, thanks to the especially bright moonlight! Lol On the way we saw many jeeps, motorbikes and horses passing us by, so we were not the first to arrive in the first level, only the first of a few who decided to get there walking. It was still dark and we couldn’t find the way to continue to climb until the higher level, so we decided to stay there, just a little bit higher to avoid the crowd. I don’t know how but soon after the sunrise I lost the French and never saw him again. I  the other hand I met again the very cool USA/French couple in the spot I chose to admire the breathtaking view of the mountains and volcanoes surrounded by a sea of pink clouds! It is very hard to find words to describe such a rich and unique landscape, magic I would say. Even harder to find words to transcribe the feeling of being there. So, I invite you fellow readers to watch the pictures and save some money to visit it later! :p For my surprise, a Austrian guy come next to me and said he could lend me his wide-angle lens, once it was Canon like my camera! What a cool surprise! What a great guy! Of course I accepted, and also invited him to try my tele-zoom lens. Wonderful travelers’ synergy going on there! When I gave him the lens back, he introduce me is Austrian girlfriend and a German couple, and we realized that all of us were staying in the same guesthouse. Good company promised for later in the day! :p

After had enjoyed the view and had taken many pictures of the fast moving clouds that were changing colors also fast due to the magic sunrise, and also the incredible mountains and volcanoes exploding from time to time, I decided to climb the rest of it, until its very top, once now it was day light and I could sight the sinuous and danger path. It took me a lot of time and effort to get there, many stop to recovery breath and make pictures of different angles, but it was really worth to get there in the top, where I finally able to see the volcano not from the same level but from above! From there was also possible to sight the east side, with several mountains and volcanoes more in there horizon! Ah, and for my surprise, I found 2 persons: the USA/French couple who kindly offered me some bananas to eat and with who I enjoyed this unique place for a while! Definitely a great company who I was lucky to find often! :p The way back was much easier, no doubt, but it seemed to be endless, probably due to my tiredness. I arrived around 9am in the village, where I was planning to have the first meal of the day and then go down to the flat valley to visit the magic Hindu Temple and Bromo, the active volcano. I did eat, and a lot! The problem was that when I finished eat and went out, let say, 15 minutes later, the weather had changed a lot and the valley was now full covered by clouds! So, I was forced to abandon my plan. I would now stay one more day, do barely anything for the rest of the day, and make the second part on the next day morning. But for that, I was consequentely forced to give up of visiting Malang, a big city nearby. I had lost a day in Probolinggo, now a second one in Cemoro Lawang, and 2 were the days planned to be spent in Malang. Mmmm, that’s travelling…

With so bad weather: rainy and cold, my new plan was to spend some hours writing, once I still had an almost entire day to spend but, hopefully, the German and the Austrian couples I met in the mountains were there in the guesthouse, chatting, playing guitar and drinking hot beverages. Instead of sleeping or writing I opted to stay with them. Thanks to the very interesting conversation the time went by incredibly fast, and at the end of the day we had some important conclusion about Indonesia. Probably the most bizarre is that Indonesia doesn’t match in any of the 3 categories we usually use when talking about economic development: 1st world, under-development countries and 3rd world. Indonesia would be in the second category if its people (in general) would be more active and if they were more interested on improvement and development. To explain why we took those conclusions would take too many lines in this already extensive post.

About the Austrian couple, they finished short time ago a big sponsored trip from Austria to Australia, passing by countries like Iran or Yemen. Their website is very interesting, and the pictures they took are really worth to be seen. Here is the address of it: http://coastlinecooking.com/

21th April: At 5.30am I left the guest house, after the sunrise but still on time to enjoy the wonderful view of the Hindu Temple in the valley that leads to the active volcanoes, specially the Bromo Volcano. Regular tourists and traveller make a very long way, passing to the official entrance where they pay a 25.000rp entrance few, and a fortune to the jeep or motorbike owners go bring them only to the middle of the plateau. In only 15 minutes walking, from the edge of the plateau where Cemero Lawang village is located, I managed to reach the point where those touristic transportation park! :p To go further by horse, a few more minutes until the stairs that lead to the top of Bromo volcano, tourist pay as much as 20.000rp! Incredible… Nearby the temple several guys proposed me also to ride one until the stairs, but the absurd was to have a proposition like that 50 meters away from it! And also for 20.000rp! lol! Can’t this folks think twice before make ridiculous questions!?!

About my lonely tour, I must say I was very lucky to take this day to do so. The light and the moving clouds of unbelievable colors and shapes made possible for me to take the (probably) best pictures ever! Ahhh, and the feeling of walking in such a unique place, quietly, enjoy the grandeur and exoticism, as well as the little details… Unforgivable!  Even more unique than this walk was to climb until the very top of the active volcano (Bromo), touching the clouds (also “climbing” it, to then “fall down” into its crater),  watching regular explosions enough strong to make the ground tremble and, by chance, to sight a few blocks of lava expelled from times to times!!! That’s the extreme nature I only knew from the TV and no it is for real!!! 🙂

I got absolutely fascinated with this place. If I had more money and time, I would surely enjoy staying like 2 weeks or more, to really experience this unique place. To explore it as much as possible, but also to just stay up there in the village contemplating this special place that somehow was imploring me to not leave it… Back to real life: bus at 9am with the German couple who “booked” it for me! Real cool guys! :p Destination: Probolinggo, only to take the 11.20am train to one of the most important cities for the Javanese culture: Surakarta (or Solo). Two coincidences: one month after have visited Surabaya I came there again, this time only to change train; in Probolinggo we met another German who remembered my face from Cemoro Lawang, and vice-versa. :p

Somehow, in a very crowd train, the five of us managed to find seats closer to each other. With some many hours to spend and one more guy, most of the time was spending on analyzing Indonesia again, this time even with two cool local who we made taught questions about their country! :p They also enjoyed a lot to be with us, taking pictures together with the “white guys” to put on facebook and making weird questions about our personal lives! :p

One of the best thinks of travelling on train in Indonesia are the prices, both for the train tickets and for the incredibly cheap meals and drinks possible to be bought from the guys who come inside in every train station! 🙂 I left the train in SoloJebres station; my fellow travellers from Germany had 1,5 hours  more to do until Yogyakarta…

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2011 in Indonesia

 

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Lombok & Bali


12th April: The bus trip was promising to be quite complex due to all the changes  needed to be done: from Maluk to the harbor on the southwest of Sumbawa Island; still inside the bus a ferry to Gianyar in the east side of Lombok Island; and finally, the road from Gianyar to the capital of Lombok Island: Mataram. I was wrong about it. Very simply, well organized and punctual, arriving at 3am in the terminal nearby the airport, exaclty as predicted. Actually I was the one who was praying for the trip to have delays so I would have more time to sleep in the “confort” of the bus. But no, from 3am until 8am I had no other option than sleep there in the terminal, on a bench of a roadside restaurant, protected by my sleeping bag.  At 8am, as previously agreed with Mr. Klaus (my next couchsurfing host, from Germany), I called him and went to his home. I asked a couch for Mataram, the only place in Lombok where there’s active couchsurfing accounts, but actually Mr. Klaus lives a few km north from Mataram, near the touristic Senggigi, nearby many dream beach destinations. Promising, no doubt, but what I would never imagine was that in only 20 minutes I would be jumping from a dirty and smelly bench of a roadside restaurant to and indescribable luxurious home inside a private neighborhood appropriately called “Secret Garden”. It has all, the wild and rich tropical forest in the backside, the paradisiac beach 2 minutes away by bike, and an astonishing exquisite swimming pool (and quite big) shared by the owners of the several houses of the private neighborhood. There’s no need many details to explain how happy I was, after almost one month travelling, to be in such a place, able to sleep in a real (good) bed, to take a hot shower/bath or to have the possibility to really wash my clothes… These are examples of basic needs in Europe that here are usually luxes. So imagine me being presented with European style luxes! :p Ahahah

Probably one of the bests decisions I made so far in this trip was to rent a bike for 3 days (10€) soon after have settled down at Mr. Klaus home. With it and some maps I copied from my guest, I was from this moment on completely independent and free to move around in this paradise called Lombok. For the first day, and because I was very tried, I decided to only go to Mataram Imigration Office to extend my VISA for 1 more month, and to make a small tour, crossing around 25km of coast to visit the first 5. Four of them were probably the best ones I visited so far in my life: Mangsit, Coco, Malimbu and Nipah. The remaining one I didn’t like: Senggigi beach, situated right in front of the touristic town with the same name. Exhausted but happy, I came back home knowing I had succeed to accomplish my mission for the first day, once the bureaucracy went pretty well, and the data collected for my friend’s website www.mylovelybeach.com was very promising! The day finishing in a perfect way, having a wonderful dinner with Klaus and his mate: Mexican beans and meat sauce remembering in taste and aspect the meal my sister so well is able to prepare too! 🙂

13th April: As the woman in the Immigration Office had told me to do, punctually at 10am I was again there to do the second step: the payment, 250.000rp. The third would be to receive back the passport at 2pm, but that will completely destroy my plans for the day, once it would force me to not travel too far away. The solution I found was to bribe her with extra 50.000rp. She accepted and made it immediately! :p

With the tips I got from a guy in the Immigration Office, I managed to cross the rest of Mataram city and get out at the right exit, in the direction of Lembar, my first destination. The reason to go there was to check out the ferries’ schedule to Pandangbay (Bali), and also because it was on the way to the forgotten and paradisiac beaches Mr. Klaus highly advised me to explore! Immediately after getting out of the urban zone (Mataram), many interesting and exotic sights kept my attention: colorful and exquisite mosques, workers in the rice fields, street markets, tiny villages, kids fishing or playing in the water, palm trees forests and so, so much more… Unfortunately, for you, there are not many pictures to show this wonders. Not because I didn’t wanted to take pictures, but because it would make the bike tour very complicated. First most of the roads didn’t have large roadside where to park the bike for a while. Besides that, if I would stop to photograph all the wonders on my way, I wouldn’t have time to make the planned circuit. I’m really sorry for that, but still, there are a few photographed exceptions, and plenty of pictures from the surreal beaches! :p  And believe me, it was really joyful to drive a bike with a quite good speed, crossing beautiful towns, endless rice fields and getting into “Lost World” like mountains and jungles…

Before arrive in my first destination, but not too far, a mega rain storm started suddenly, giving me no time to park the bike and protect myself before get completely wet. Not a big deal, once it was quite warm. I stopped in a motorbike garage, took out the shirt and used my “anti-rain pack”: the hot towel (kept under the seat, near the engine) and toilet paper to clean my glasses. The rainstorm lasted for 15 minutes, but the consequences of it were unbelievable: big pools of water in the road, and worst, much worst, instantly created strong rivers of orange vivid color, coming down the hills and crossing the roads. I was quite afraid to cross those deep and fast “rivers”, but after realize that everybody else was crossing it I went back to the road too. It was still raining a little, but nothing that would prevent me to drive. When I sighted a quite big town (for this zone), I decided to stop, this time to dry myself well, take a hot coffee and wait the rain to stop completely. While drinking the coffee I asked about the name of that place, and for my joyfulness, it was already Sekotong Tengah, the last landmark before turn northwest and move towards Taun Beach. There in the shop they had also colorful slices of watermelom tempting me. I asked the price: 4cents! Mmmm, delicious and, basically, for free! :p

Right after Sekotong Tengah a found a not mapped beach and I decided to stop. Although very narrow, the environment was very rich, and the view of the bay superb… A few kilometers more and I finally found Taun Beach. What can I say, I’m running out of adjectives! Yap, definitely worth to visit! 🙂 To get into the second destination, I needed to come back again to Sekotong Tengah and then move south, crossing the “Lost world” like mountain range full covered by an incredibly rich jungle. Better than this one, only in Flores.

In the south coast of Lombok is situated the Sepi Beach. Its name (“sepi” means quite/deserted) says everything. A magnificent and forgotten paradise beach of white and clean sand, with the mountain range behind and, in the front, an endless bay that leads to a wonderful archipelago of tiny Islands and rocks…

To get into Kuta Beach, I needed to get again inside the mountain. So far, and besides being in a forgotten part of the Lombok, the roads were quite new and with good asphalt, but the next part would be completely different: a completely destroyed road, with 1 and 2m deep craters, dozens of meters without a single bit of flat surface and, in some parts, I was even forced to move out of the road, passing through the forest, or jump out the bike and push it! What madness! Yah, it sounds terrible, but my only worry was to not get into Selongblanak and Kuta beaches on time, I mean, before the sunset. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have any kind of worry or reason to feel upset, once crossing this outstanding landscape and the third world villages with welcoming and surprised people was such a good experience that I didn’t felt the time going by. Even with the feeling that I was really running out of time, I couldn’t resist to what my eyes were showing me: a little and poor village, with no running water neither electricity, where I found people who looked really shocked to see a foreign. And that’s not all. The best was the beach: immense, long and large, with white sand and no vestiges of plastic rubbish. A really lost paradise in potential, once I don’t want to offend those people living there calling it paradisiac (and consequently their lives paradisiacal)! No, not at all! But the place is definitely special, having even a little lake reflecting the beautiful shapes of their bamboo houses and the beginning of the beach. Ah and the kids! Better to watch the pictures! Because it is not mapped, as I said, I decided to call this it Nangong Beach, after the name of the village also not mapped but whose inhabitants taught me its name.

Still in the mountains, I found a great spot with an open view to the coast, when I was able to have the first glimpse of my next destination: Selongblanak Beach. From this privileged spot, not only the beach was easy to sight, but also all the bay and hills surrounding it, as well as the islands in the shore. And separating me from that beach was a luxury forest hopefully there to complete the idyllic scenery. Front the top of this mountain, the beach looked to be very near, but actually it took me quite long time to get there and confirm how wonderful Selongblanak Beach was. Back to the road, one more cool surprise: a traditional wedding going on in a small village, completely blocking the traffic. Once I was forced to stop the bike, I get out of it to check the wedding closely. Good it happens! Really worth to be seen! But not for long, the sky was getting a little bit dark, and I still had to make 25km until Kuta beach. Unfortunately I really needed to move away, and more, I needed to drive fast. Actually really fast I drove, once there’s a great road in the south leading to Kuta Beach: several kilometers of a perfectly straight line with very good asphalt. I reached 95km/h there, with an automatic scooter! And yah, just on time to be presented in Kuta with a magic and multicolor sunset. Really lucky! The sky has very cloudy for the whole day, cover of clouds that made the favor to get away at the right time! :p Kuta Beach it is not so quiet as the beaches I have seen previously in this day, once it as a town nearby (with the same name) and there’s enough tourists coming here to sustain the increasingly growing number of restaurants, guesthouses and bars. But, the beach itself, is surely the most complete and exquisite dream scenery in Lombok Island, and probably also one of the best in whole Indonesia. So much to say about and at the same time so hard to express it! I highlight its endlessness beach enriched by 3 zones with 3 different kinds of sand, the vivid green trees right on the beach and, above all, the beautifully shaped rocks spread throughout the beach (especially near its capes) that are at the same time great to complete the “perfect picture” and very useful to take other great pictures from its tops! Still at the top of a rock, now simply enjoying the idyllic view, I had a surprising and lovely visit. A group of young people (2 girls and 3 boys) came to seat next to me, inviting me to drink their local drink made of fermented rice, the “brom”. When I say local I don’t mean the whole Lombok, only this southern part where live the Sasak People, one of the 3 main ethnic groups in the island. Authentically welcoming and truly enjoying the presence of a foreign (not a “turist”), they were very curious to make questions about me and my homeland, and also willful to teach me about the region, their culture and their Sasak language, while pushing me to drink (a lot) of their delicious and strong rice wine. Their unique kind expressions and their genuine smiles would be one of the best memories I will keep for my whole life…

A little bit drunk and without (international) drive license, I still needed to make around 50km through unseen roads without artificial illumination in a night particularly dark. Hopefully my destination was Mataram, the capital of the island, so there’s was a bypass (kind of narrow high-way). Besides that, every time I stopped to confirm the right direction, obviously everybody knew which roads to take on the way to the capital… Once I got into a known place (somewhere in the road between Mataram and Senggigi), I immediately parked the bike and look forward to satisfy my starving stomach and “relieve waters”! Ah, too much Brom! Lucky me, I got wonderful seafood rice for 80 cents. Great, simply great… :p

9 hours after have started the journey, I was again at Mr. Klaus “palace”, feeling all my bones broken, but the mind immerse in bliss… “mutluluk”…

14th April: The main goal of the day was to visit one of the three worlds renewed Gili Islands, a top destination for snorkeling and diving. From Senggigi I should go north crossing again the paradisiac west coast of Lombok. Not far from the harbor where I should take the boat, I had the found a cape with a perfect view for the three islands, and better, two more wonderful beaches to had on http://mylovelybeach.com  database: Pandanan and Nara beaches.

In the harbor there were not so many people going to the island Mr Klaus advised me to visit, Gili Meno, the middle one, so it took 2 precious hours to fulfill the boat. At the least I had plenty of time to discover the tiny harbor, buy enough food for the journey (yah, must count on the insanely high prices of goods in the hiper-touristic islands) and have a discussion with a stupid guy who had enough good skills on English to express himself, but still the mind with the size of a peanut, impeding him to understand the difference between “tourist” and “traveller”. 99,9% of Indonesian do the same mistake, but I understand it when is said by a child, and old man, or by illiterate folks in general, not from a guy speaking English as good as me… anyway…

To have opted for the middle Island (Meno) was mainly a consequence of Mr. Klaus advises. Only when I was in the boat moving towards it, suddenly a great thought came out: being in the middle one, with a tele-zoom lens on my camera, I would be able to “spy” a little bit the other two (Trawagan and Air)! Cool! :p

The first impression I had when I got into Meno Island was of being “jumping inside the TV screen”, joining a documentary I previously watched. Why? Because those kinds of unreal sceneries, with absolute clear and crystalline waters, ones usually just know it from the TV! :p After have made a short walk on the south part of the island and have swimming on its dream waters, I moved to north, looking for the snorkeling spot shown on the map. The view from the other islands, the forest, the animals, the insects, the coral and shells spread throughout the beaches… everything was great, except the overexploited tourist industry…  and the silliness of those “orang-hutan” who don’t know how to make business: wanting all the money at once often leads to the absence of it! In front of the snorkeling spot I found a single person renting masks, snorkels and fins. She wanted 40.000rp for the whole day. I said: “ok, I just need for 1 hour, so I will pay you 15.000rp for this hour, the equivalent of a whole day in Labuan Bajo”. She said “no way, this is not Labuan Bajo but the touristic Gili Island”. Yah right, but the point was to pay the same amount of money for a SINGLE hour. When she understood it she drop the price to 35.000 and finally to 30.000. The husband joined her to call me a greed tourist! F****** bastards! Tourist not for sure, otherwise I would pay their price with no complains, second they were the greed ones. Renting 40.000/day, I offered them 15.000/hour! Insane orang-hutan’s mentality people. I gave up! Continuing to walk west eventually I found a cool bar with cool young guys also renting snorkeling equipment. Their prices: mask+snorkel for 15.000rp/3hours or mask+snorkel+fins for 25.000/3hours. I proposed to remake it: 15.000rp for the 3 objects instead of 2, but only 1 hour instead of 3 hours! With no arguing and smiling they accepted immediately! 🙂 Ahahaha, and I got exactly what I initially proposed to the stupid woman! :p About the snorkeling experience, it’s a matter of luck, not an exact science to sight the famous turtles, so I sighted no one. But in the other hand there are no words to describe the feeling of immerging in such rich and exotic waters fulfilled by colorful fishes with bizarre bodies and wonderful corals. And yes, I saw some of the very famous and rare blue ones! Simply great! 🙂 Finished the underwater adventure, I moved towards the inner-island to visit the salt lake and photograph (by chance) a giant spider! Without much time left until de departure of the boat that would bring me back to Lombok, I decided to seat nearby the harbor and enjoy the view, now with a better light thanks to the clouds that decided to open the sky for a while. Unexpectedly a wedding ceremony started right next to me, a great occasion to take some more nice pictures and luckily meet 2 Dutch persons who were also happily photographing and enjoying the ceremony! She was a professional photographer and took a great album of pictures of myself with my camera. He was a musician, partying for his birthday, so invited me to join them and drink a strong sweet alcoholic drink made from dark rice! Later in the evening, when he added me on facebook, I discovered we had four friends in common! :p

Back to Lombok, quite drunk, I still had enough energy and willing to move a little bit more north, to discover Sira Beach. Surely one of the longest beaches in Lombok, with crystalline waters almost like Gili Islands, a dream place, very quiet, perfect to relax and also for snorkeling. There I found a reggae stile bar, with very cool guys smoking joints, Bob Marley hits playing on the radio and a “rastafari” young guy, who surprised me with his kindness and his skills with Portuguese language. He was able to say, with perfect accent of Brazilian Portuguese, sentences like: “E aí meu irmão?” or “E aí maconheiro”! Ahahahah, great! 🙂

Around 6pm I was again at Mr. Klaus home.  Prepared a tea and went outdoors, seating in the terrace enjoying the perfect light and the Bossanova songs perfectly mixed with the sound of the singing birds in the backyard. What a surprise Mr. Klaus made me with his music preferences, especially when I heard two of my favorite songs: “Desafinado” and “Corcovado”… again “mutluluk”…

15thApril: Early morning: time to finally try to swim in the exquisite swimming pool available in the paradise where Mr. Klaus live. Refreshed and completely woke up from the swim, I went to the terrace to take my last luxurious breakfast of exotic fruits with coffee, while discussing again the Libyan Faked Revolution with Mr. Klaus, who as a completely opposite opinion of mine! :p The guy from the renting bikes company took too long to came and receive the bike back, and made me loose the only bus of the day to Lembar harbor! Great, great! Better run away with the bike on the next time! Some mad guys were asking me between 100.000 and 150.000rp to take me there. Lol. Want all at once? Mmmm, again you get nothing…  Luckily a French guy was there trying to buy a tour ticket for the mountains and, having heard the conversation made me the following proposition: he was planning to rent a bike today and go south (Lembar harbor is on south too), so I could pay him 20.000rp and we would leave me at the harbor. Great! I accepted. We decided two meet around 2pm in the restaurant where I would be using internet and eating, but soon after he came back saying he changed plans once he didn’t manage to make a deal for the price he wanted. French are known in this part of the world for being persistent negotiators and for barging too much, now I see why. About be, this was catastrophic news. I still could pay 500rp Bemo to Mataram, and then try to find something for 20.000 or 30.000 to get into Lembar, but that would take a lot of time and patience, so I told him I would pay 40.000rp to rent the bike for him and he would bring me there after all; he would pay the fuel. The French guy accepted, rented and before 2 was there to pick me up. He didn’t knew the way, but my memory was still fresh about it, so I explained the route and he drove, under a heavy rain in the first 10km. Hard negotiator but real cool and friendly guy. It was a really big pleasure to meet him! He was a traveler blog too. Check it please: . 🙂

The ferry ticket was cheaper than what I thought: 40.000rp. Plus 40.000 for the bike, still much cheaper than the 135.00 for the pack: shuttle bus Senggigi-Lembar plus ferry Lombok-Bali. Good I missed the 10.30am bus and met this French guy! 🙂 Nice price but not social environment in the ferry: a multitude of stubborn guys trying to sell me all kind of stuff were coming to talk with me every 10 seconds, although I had made already very clear that I had all I needed in my bag and that I would not by for sure nothing from them! What tiring people! So, I put the music in my laptop on the maximum volume and start to write!

5 hours later I was in Padangbay, east Bali. It was already night, nobody was able to explaining me where or if there were buses to the west side of Bali, or at the least people didn’t looked that interested on helping me. Only the typical boring guys, the motorbike-taxi guys, were coming to talk to me offering insanely high prices to bring me nowhere, to bring me to the next abandoned corner… what to say… hopefully I saw a western guy passed by (I had seen him before in the ferry) and asked him for help. He told me he lives and he was going to Ketapang to, the harbor city in east Java where I was planning to go next! Uoh, what a coincidence! I asked if we could share the fuel bill in case he would give me a ride, but he said the fuel was no problem for him, no need to pay him nothing. The question was if I would like to make the tour he was about to start. He would drive is car until the South, to Kuta, sleep one night there, then next morning he would be dealing with his business partners and only afternoon he would go to Java. I said I was open to everything, so I joined him! Ah, what a mad surprise. This is the kind of unexpected travelling experiences I’m always ready to get into! 🙂 And who would guess that precisely one month after have started my trip, I would be back to the very starting point!?! Amazing…

While crossing the southeast coast of Bali, we had a lot of time to start to know each other, especially me about is unique and eccentric life story. My “new friend” is Italian and his name is Enrico.  He got married with a woman from south Lombok, a member of the Sasak People like the teenagers I met in Kuta (Lombok one, not Bali one) for who he needed to fight a according with the tradition of the village against her husband. The win for the Italian guy in this fight would make possible to the woman to divorce and get rid of the domestic violence she suffered since she married forced, at the age of 14. No need to say the result of the fight, just mention that Enrico and the Sasak girl are now together and have a little baby. About having a “wife” (they are not married) who grew up in a countryside third world village, he told me and I believe him that in many aspects he his firstly a father, secondly a husband. Very easy to understand it, after all I had seen around here. Most of the people have an intellectual age of a 6 or 8 years old European child. Not joking. Only in the big cities (Surabaya is a perfect example) I found mentally adult ones! Enrico explained me where is situated the village in south Lombok where his “wife” grew up and, if I’m not equivocated, I passed there before yesterday. And that’s not the cool coincidence. The really cool one is that Enrico recognized one of the children in the pictures I took in the “uncharted village! Unbelievable! His skills with Indonesian language completely surprised me! He really speaks fluent Bahasa Indonesia. I asked him how he managed to reach such a high level. He told it was very simple: he lives with a woman who knows barely anything about English! Yap, I got it! :p Once Enrico lives in Indonesia for quite long time and visit Kuta many times, he knew where to find a quite cheap and very good hotel, with swimming pool and a cool view. To share the room also helped a lot to make it cheaper! Last interesting information about Enrico today: he told me he bought a huge land in Sumbawa Island, including a long white sand beach and a hill with fresh water source in Sumbawa for a ridiculous price, where now he is building is dream house. For instance, a hectare of this paradisiac and desert land costs around 2000€! You see guys what I mean when I talk about live in Indonesia!

16th April: Enrico went to Kuta airport zone to take care of his business; I stayed for a while in the hotel, enjoying the swimming pool and the quite good breakfast, having also time to meet a cool Israeli guy who wanted to keep secret his nationality because, according with his point of view, it would be dangerous to spread out it in a Muslim country like Indonesia. Yah, sure! Lol! With still enough time I decided to make a tour around the neighborhood, coming back at noon to check out from the hotel and take my bag and Enrico one. The plan was to wait for him in the roadside next to the hotel and so I did. There, another amazing coincidence happened. Do you remember Garry, my “first friend” of the trip that I met in the last day at Kuta? Yah, this very same guy moved his job from the place we met to another place right in front of the hotel I stayed this time! I felt really happy to find this great guy and to have time to continue our very interesting conversation, especially because Enrico came much later that what we had agreed, giving me extra time to enjoy the company of Garry! 🙂

One of the best reasons to get in contact with guys like Enrico, who knows everything about the country that adopted him, is de fact that he knows where to eat good and cheap food, including in Kuta. We went to have lunch in Warung Nikmat, the restaurant with the biggest variety of food I found so far in this trip, and undoubtedly the one who as the best ratio price/quality. Here is the address for those interested on it: Warun Nikmat, Jalan Bakung Sari GG, Biduring, Kuta-Bali.

Back to the road, we crossed Denpasar, the capital of Bali, on the way to the north through the road that leads to the lakes and mountains I wanted to visit and later gave up about due to the insane prices they offer to the “turists”. Without expecting I eventually did it, and in a much better way, with a guys who know everything about the Island, who was stopping frequently in the best spots for me to take pictures of the lakes, the mountains and the monkeys, and all this with a genuine altruism or, if you want, completely free of charge for me! The empathy we built with each other became a great a memorable think. There was not anymore this uncomfortable feeling of the silence when next to a strange person, when we always urge to find a theme to keep talking, even when we even nothing else to say. With Enrico the silent moments were as natural as when next to an old friend. The conversations interrupted the silence naturally, when there was truly something to say, both from me or from him. Keeping with the unbelievable stories, Enrico explained me with details about the 2 times we was attacked my sharks, and the other one when a snake bit him. All these stories and many more are fortunately registered in his diary, that’s waiting to be published as a book. I will wait for it impatiently!

One more tip for travelers: in Indonesia, when you take a ferry as a passenger of a motorbike, a car our any other kind of vehicle, you only need to pay the ticket for the vehicle, doesn’t matter how many people are inside it. So, while crossing the strait between Bali and Jawa, Enrico paid the ticket for the car and I paid nothing once I was seated inside the car. Great! I may try to repeat it on purpose, asking people with cars or trucks waiting to embark if they let me go in just a few minutes until get parked in the ferry. Let’s see! :p


 
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Posted by on April 17, 2011 in Indonesia

 

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Sumbawa Island


Sape & Bima (7th to 9th April): My arrival in the completely unknown Sumbawa (for me) couldn’t have happened in a better way. After the big storm that followed us in the last 2 hours of the ferry trip, the air was now extremely clean, pure. Also the sun appeared again, shyly but enriching the panorama of Sape’s harbor and the clouds at the horizon with an outstanding light never seen before. Already stepping on Sumbawa Island and besides the rain that was starting again, I still took the decision to walk around for a few minutes, enjoying the surreal light and discovering the first yards of this magic land with suspended houses, what made me guess that I would be travelling in a flooding zone for the next days. And guess what, I was right! After 7 hours in the ferry, the daylight was about to finished, and I still had to take a bus to my first destination Bima. It took around 1 hour, so when I got there was already night. A little bit confused with the absence of light and any kind of idea about the city, I looked for a place to eat where at the same time I would ask information about cheap hotels. The meal was quite expensive but wonderful, and the owner, a very old man (with no idea about English language) made his best to explain me where to find a very cheap hotel. With his explanation I easily got there, and once the rest of the hotels in Bima are quite expensive, I want to leave here the information about this one, so you can get there in case you visit the Island: Hotel Dara, rooms from 40.000rp (3,3€), next to the left exit of the bus terminal (5 meters); you will actually see it from the middle of the terminal). It has also an internet-café in the hotel, 4000rp/hour (0,33cents/hour) with quite fast connection.

Bima it’s a big city, and like every big city,, full of people, noisy and quite polluted, but believe me, its people makes worth to visit it! Their kindness, their talkativeness and their happiness for being with a foreign are so great that even if Bima would be the dirtiest city in the world, I would easily spend a long time there (if I could)! The kids are great here! Sometimes shy, but always very curious. They love to be on the picture, jumping and smiling of happiness when they see themselves on the camera’s screen. Probably the best moment with kids was when I reached the coast marginal, where I found 2 little boys who explained me their fishing technic. Other great moment, this time with a group of teenagers, took place in a suburb of Bima. They were playing a cards’ game and invited me to join them. I couldn’t understand it and I don’t like to play cards. Still, I stayed watching them playing for a while, astonished with the “punishment” they have for the loser one: a hearing made from a string and a bottle fixed on it! The looser must keep it on his hear until the next round is finished! Lol. Unforgettable were also the 10 minutes spent on walking in a street, followed in the other side by a big group of very young girls wearing white traditional Muslim dresses.  In a confusing mix of shyness and curiosity, they were waving their hands to me and asking to take picture of them, to immediately after cover their faces with the hands or hiding themselves behind the trees on the roadside. They repeated it several times, getting less shy each time…

Adults treated me very well too. Always ready to give me information or help, even when I didn’t need or didn’t want! And more, offering me stuff or doing special prices, like the old guy on the internet-café who told me I could stay online (with my own laptop) unlimited time for 5000rp (40cents)! That very same guy spent the rest of the day joyfully watching the pictures of Indonesia in my website and showing it to everybody! Even better, the guy with a drying helmets business (yah, it exists here, and it’s very used in Indonesia): I saw he had those wonderful traditional hats for only 2,5€ so I went inside to buy one. What happened there was far behind of what my imagination could guess: this guy, Haris, speaking fluently English, drew me a map of the city center with the places I was looking for, presented me his lovely wife and the beautiful kids, and 2 hours later when I came to take my hat, offered me tea, patiently explained how works his machines, shared a really nice conversation and… yes, he gave me the hat as a gift! And about the conversation: Haris explained how he and a group of German guys built a traditional wooden ship in Sulawesi to then make a 3 years trip (all of them) around the world sailing it! There’s a book about this trip and he proudly showed me a copy: Die Dschunke, Axel Brummen, ISBN 3-934996-13-2. What an amazing life’s story this guy has, who now settled down in this forgotten island of Sumbawa, humbling living from a cleaning helmet company, enjoying and loving life with his family, day after day… the minimum I can do to this friend I got in Bima, is to share with all you reader the address of his business, in case one day you will need to clean or dry a helmet! :p Here it is: Jalan Poros Pelabuhan, Sebelan Barat Jembatan Romo Tanjune, Kota Bima, NTB, Indonesia.

Although mister Haris drew me a good and precise map of the city center, eventually I didn’t succeed to visit all the main attraction. Not because of my bad orientation, but due to my volleyball passion. After visit the big mosque under construction/in ruins and watch kids playing in its backyard, I sighted a group of people playing volley, and I decided to get closer and learn more about. They were only women playing, and the “assistance” was also women and female children. I seated for a while, taking pictures of them game and of the people, but later I convinced them to let me play, and so I did for an hour, until the sunset. They were so happy that even invited me to come back next day at 4pm, but unfortunately my trip plan wouldn’t let it happen…

About the food, it is really interesting in Bima, very tasty and with a bigger variety comparing with what I had seen so far in Indonesia. And the prices are very small, in general. I highly advise to try some local food on the traditional roadside restaurants. A good dessert, for only 5000rp: a big fruit salad with peanut cream. You will find people selling it in the roadside.

Funny moment of the day: while taking pictures of kids playing football, a very old man with a high quality mobile took also several pictures of me! :p

From coast to coast (9th & 10th April): It was told me the bus from Bima to Sumbawarbesar would leave the terminal at 9am, but once the hotel I was staying was right in front of it, I went there to check the bus around 8am. Good that I did it! The bus departed at 8.15am, so overloaded of people and goods that I bet it will eventually get a flat tire. Less then 10km later: a flat tire! :p While the guys fixed the problem, I went out of the bus to try an exotic and tasty cheap food: Peaces of tofu and meatballs with boiled egg inside, with a vivid red sauce very spicy! 🙂 Mmmm! Back on the road, and with the “kilometers” passing by, I confirmed what I was guessing. Not only the Sape and Bima zone, but the whole Sumbawa Island is a flooding zone, and that’s why the houses have a very specific characteristic: the “first floor” its completely empty. Its only made of the wood pillars who support the second floor, where people live!

With the bus already overloaded, they still stopped to take a group of 8 teenagers in a small village. Of course from this moment on, people started to hit and hurt each other, complaining of the insufficient space and the bad seating positions. Anyway, for the driver was still not enough, and in the next 30 minutes, stopping in every village and passing by all bus terminals, he managed to get 8 more costumers, with many on the roof, and several outside the bus (with only a foot in the stairs and a arms in the windows)! After a few weeks in Indonesia, I already understood that the afternoons are particularly rainy, so I was guessing also about what would they do in case it would start to rain!?! Easy, the guys from the roof came inside! What a madness! Super-hiper-overloaded bus of people trying hard to breath! Fighting for survival! :p

About people here, they look to be (probably) a mix of native people quite similar with Flores, and of Javanese who (also probably) settled down here later. Being closer to Jawa, it is not a surprise that the main religion is again the Muslim. After have crossed Flores and Sumbawa, sighting so many people just staying at their houses’ entrance, seated, watching the emptiness, playing cards or smoking cigarettes, I started to believe that if folks here are more poor that in other regions of the world (like Europe), it is not (only) because of lack of opportunities, it is also a life style, a conscient decision. They are more poor mainly because they are less productive. So to be poor here is not like to be a jobless guy in a European slum. They work enough to keep going, they pick up from the rich nature enough goods, and life goes on. So, somehow, they are richer than many Europeans, even if life is taught here… and definitely more happy for being alive than the westerns with their “consumption-unhappiness”…

The last big road trip I did, in Flores, I had the problem with the battery not full charged, what prevented me of making a better photo album of it. This time I paid attention on in, the battery was full. Also full of people was the bus, and that was my biggest obstacle to take picture this time. The weather also didn’t helped a lot, once it was continually raining, but still, I think the album is worth to be watched! :p

11 hours later we were finally in Sumbawabesar. It was already dark and I was worry about how I would manage to find a cheap place just for sleep, was I would be continue the trip further west until Maluk, my final destination in the Island. I asked the guys from the bus if they knew about something very cheap. Somehow, with body language and Indonesian, they managed to explain me that would be possible to find 1 for 50.000rp but, once I would be continuing to travel in the next morning, I could sleep for free inside their bus, just like they would do! Uoh, great! To so, first I would need to wait while they would clean up the bus and fix it suspension. Deal! :p While waiting I got in contact with a very welcoming and friendly people who offered me a glass of hot milk and asked if I wanted to wash myself with a “mandi”. Ohhh, yah, definitely! After the refreshing I started to really enjoy to be there, in a slum stile corner of the terminal. I took a seat next to them and we “talked” for a long time, waiting the bus to be ready, but eventually I asked if I could stay overnight in the bamboo “bed” they had at their restaurant entrance and they kindly said yes! 🙂 On the next day morning, still with pain on my backs for the bus and for the bamboo bed, I got inside the kitchen where a old woman showed out to prepare the chili sauce they use here. The minimum I could do to these great people was to buy a meal there, and so I did. Finished the meal, I restarted the adventure, find a bus until Taliwang, from where I would take the last one to Maluk.

Half way between Sumbawabesar and Taliwang, in the northwest coast of the island, there’s a very long beaches’ area, with clear water and very clean sand. The surrounding landscape is also unbelievable beautiful! Sure it is not wild as Flores, neither its fauna is as reach as in Flores, but this is definitely a unique dream place. Culture changes a lot also comparing with Flores: the tipic hanging houses as I wrote before, and also the religion. The east is 100% Muslim while in the west of Sumbawa Island it is possible to sight a tiny Hindu influence, probably because it is not that far from Bali, the Hindu Island.

Maluk city (10th & 11 April): Ratna, a couchsurfer told me to leave the bus in Benete Terminal. I ask for it to the driver and he said ok. Already in Maluk, after have crossed almost all the city, the driver told me to leave the bus a take an oje (motorbike taxi) back to the beginning of the city, a few kilometers behind!!! I asked for what reason, he told me the reason was the Benete Terminal was back there! Ah, great, so why we didn’t stopped there when we passed by! Yah, sure, “pay, tourist pay”! Outraging mentality! Mother f***** guy! I walked back, but eventually I gave up (too many kilometers with the bag and feeling very tired) and called the couchsurfer. She came to meet me and I was confused because she showed up from a corner next to the place I was. Why did she tell me to wait so far away, back in the distant Terminal!?! It would be worst for both to meet there!?! But that’s ok… Surprisingly Ratna came not to lead me to her home and host me, but to help me to find a hotel!?! Ok… She said a cheap would cost 200.000rp (16€) per night! What, what, what!?! I said, impossible, I will sleep in the road or on the beach. Then she told me she will try to find a cheaper one. And yah, 20 meters from the place I firstly called her, there was one for 8€/night! Still very expensive to me! I changed immediately my plans! Instead of 2 nights in this cursed land, I would stay only one but enjoy the 2 days, taking the ferry to Lombok Island only on the next day at night. And I stayed in that “very cheap” hotel. Ratna told me everything was very expensive here due to the mining works nearby. Yap, one more reason to host me here! Especially because she was the one who invited me and convinced me to change my route and come to Southwest Sumbawa! It all started a few days ago when I sent her a couchsurfing request to stay at her place in Mataram (Lombok). She kindly replied me saying that she was not living there anymore, but that I would be welcomed to her new place, in Maluk, in case I would decide to go there! Strangely, in the last 2 days before get into Maluk she stopped to reply my SMS. Only a few hours before arriving in Maluk, at early morning, I got a message from her, with a strange excuse for her long silence… So, I wrote all this for a specific reason. People often ask me if it is not dangerous to use couchsurfing, or if it doesn’t bring troubles. I always say “no, not really”, but an exception can happen. There’s the exception! :p

The weather was also not very kind to me too. A big storm started when I was paying the room, and it lasted for several hours. Later, around sunset time it got better and I walked fast towards the beach, trying to enjoy the last sunset light. A little bit later, but I got there and finally felt happy for being in Maluk, thanks to the paradisiac beach and surroundings. Back to the hotel, I was invited by the teenager working in the reception to join him and his friends and play PES2011 with his Playstation2! Ahaha, cool guys! I played 2 matches, and then went out for internet, playing also a little badminton with a girl I found on the way. Went I went back I was planning to go slept, once I was feeling exhausted, but the guys invited me to play again on their Playstation2, and so I did until 1am! Mad life… :p

In the next day I was really feeling like sleep for the whole morning, but I really couldn’t do it. First because I had only until 8.30pm to discovery the city, and second because I now know that usually in the morning the weather is quite good and it is rainy in the afternoon. I went back to Maluk Beach, this time with enough light to see it all! :p And what a place! What a perfect postcard. Clear water with corals, clean beach, thousands of shells spread out through the beach, outstanding mountain picks surrounding the bay, friendly people like the old woman trying to talk with me in Indonesian! Ah, so nice she was! I bought a soft drink from her and later helped to pack her stuff when it started to rain. A very kind couple nearby offered me wet peanuts: strange, but believe me, it tastes good. Ah, and the teenager who joined me on the water, competing for the best wave to make “bodysurf”! :p Later, when I started to pick up the most beautiful shells, he helped me too! 🙂

I needed to check out from the hotel at 2pm maximum (that was cool!) so, although it was raining I went back on time to take a shower, prepare and eat a pack of Chinese noodles and even check the news: a plague of caterpillars in Bali and Lombok; a “pornoskandal” as it was written on TV screen. As far as I understood, a photographer took a picture of an Indonesian deputy searching for porno pages on his Ipad in the parliament! Lol

While searching a path to get closer to the big mountain nearby, accidentally, I went inside a very poor slum here live the newcomers who are here seeking for a better life with a well-paid salary in the mines. As I always say, if we don’t move at all, surprises will not happen, good things will not come search after us. We are the ones who must seek it. Et voilà, in that little village I met a huge group of friendly and smiley kids who never said nothing about money or candies! They truly enjoyed my presence there and to see themselves in the camera screen. The adults were also very kind and one talking quite fluent English made me a very good introduction about the place and the people lives. When I was about to leave the village the last surprise came: a man asked me to take a picture of him with his children in his arms, and to show his gratitude he offered me a boiled root that had a very similar taste with yams! It is important to sexplain that I’m crazy about yams, and I really miss eat! 🙂

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2011 in Indonesia

 

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TO TRAVEL! TO LEAVE COUNTRIES!


Hello fellow readers of my blog. Once I’m still working on the next post (Sumbawa Island), I invite you to read this great poem of Fernando Pessoa: “To Travel! To Leave Countries!”  About the next post,  tomorrow night (Indonesia time) I will publish  it.

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2011 in Uncategorized