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Stories from Indonesia

Kuta, Indonesia

The Beach Scene

michelleWe landed in Bali yesterday. Every time the plane lands in a new country I feel like a little child about to open an anticipated gift. Not knowing what to expect but aware it will probably be something good. And our first destination, Kuta, did not disappoint.

It is like nothing I have ever seen. Bright lights, miles and miles of shops, merchandise flowing out to the sidewalks, almost touching the streets. Never ending streams of motorcycles and taxis pass on narrow roads, horns honking, while music blasts from bars, and venders yell out their wares as you pass - "You want massage?" "You want tattoo?" "How about ice cream?" (Although with their accents it sounds more like "ass cream.")

Kuta is a commercialized, gaudy beach resort town. The international airport is down the road so most tourists make it a starting point to their vacation in Bali. Cheap hotels, crowded beaches, surfer dudes and scantily clad women make Kuta a typical beach town, but 10 fold. The only Indonesians you meet are the vendors desperate for your money. We are warned we must bargain fiercely for every purchase.

Walking through the city is not an easy task. It is easy to become disoriented and lost in the narrow streets lined by high walls. Potholes in the sidewalks threaten to swallow you whole if you aren't paying attention to your step. I must also take care to step over the small offerings in the doorways of each store and restaurant, placed there to ward off evil spirits.

This is not the true Indonesia. Instead it's a non-stop European party scene. It's an overwhelming, wild experience but I will be glad when I leave. In the meantime, I will soak in the energy around me, practice my haggling skills, and enjoy a couple beers. top

Ubud, Indonesia

Cremation Ceremony

michelleAfter arriving in Ubud, we set out to explore the town. Ubud is known for its culture and artists. In central Bali, it is surrounded by picturesque rice fields and temples. I was excited to experience the town I had heard referred to as "the Santa Fe" of Indonesian for its many artists and galleries.

As we walked along the main road we soon came to a large crowd gathered around a large decorative paper-mache lion and colorful multi-tiered tower. The Indonesian men wore black sarongs, shirts, and head coverings. The Indonesian women wore fancy lace tops and sarongs. The tourists all had their cameras poised, ready for the event to begin.

We had stumbled across a cremation ceremony. The dead body is placed at the base of the tower to be carried to the cremation ground to be burned. As the ceremony began, the air was filled with music, yelling, laughter, and excitement. The funeral is a happy event, symbolizing the release of the soul to be with god. The men lifted the two large structures on their shoulders and started running down the street in a crazy zig-zag path (to confuse the spirit so it would not return home). Following in the procession were musicians, women carrying offerings, and hundreds of people. I think the whole town came out for the ceremony.

We walked through the town, up a steep hill to the cremation ground, surrounded by rice fields. There we watched as the lion, tower and offerings were set on fire. It was surreal to watch the lion's face slowly consumed by orange flames while listening to the ceremonial chants. It was a great introduction to Ubud and the Balinese culture.

 

 

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Dance

timUbud is a well-traveled city full of tourists, and the tourists create a demand for entertainment which the Balinese happily supply. In a few days, even the most hurried person can sample several varieties of Balinese dance and music.

Tonight was the first public performance of this all-child dance troupe and gamelan orchestra. If I can get my hands on a high-speed internet connection on the road, I'll add streaming audio of this concert as I did in Samoa. top

Batik Class

timWe met Nyomen Suradnya while inquiring about batik classes. His easy going personality was about 50% pure Balinese and 50% well-traveled artist-hippie. Inside of his family compound and art gallery, his batiks and watercolor paintings hung side by side with plants and caged song birds. After brief introductions, the long-haired Indonesian offered us a drink and suggested we sit down, chill out, and take it easy. We chatted for a while and casually scheduled a class for a couple of days later.

We arrived for our class in the morning, accepted an offer for thick Balinese coffee, and set to work. We were each given a white cotton cloth stretched across a wooden frame and a pencil to lay down a design. I sketched a geometric pattern, while Michelle drew a turtle.

Batik is a process of waxing and dyeing cloth to produce unique patterns and designs. Indonesia is known for such cloth, as the variety of batiks offered for sale in every market here will testify. The process is simple: cover the fabric with bees wax to prevent dye from soaking in and dye the fabric. Like a screen print, the lightest color is used first and is covered by progressively darker colors.

The wax is applied with two tools, the chanting and the brush. The chanting works like a wax pen. One "draws" with the chanting's point as it pulls hot wax from a reservoir. Different size chantings draw dots and lines of varying sizes. The other tool, the brush, is used to cover large areas of fabric.

After a few fumbling attempts using the chanting on a practice cloth, I began outlining my sketch in wax. As each layer of wax seals in the current color, these outlines would remain on the finished piece as white. I worked for 30 minutes, and went on to the next step of dyeing the cloth yellow.

We continued through the layers of wax and colors. I next painted the area I wanted to remain yellow, and dyed orange. Then painted and dyed through red and blue.

I finished, yet had no idea what the piece looked like. It was a sloppy mess, covered in wax, hard, and dripping with dye. Delaying my need for instant gratification, I handed it over to Nyomen's assistants and planned to pick it up later.

In my absence, his assistants fixed the dye with natural chemicals, boiled the cloth to remove the wax, and set the cloth out to dry. Nyomen was showing our finished pieces to a fellow Washingtonian traveler when we returned. She thought the pieces looked great, and much to my surprise, I did too.

In case you are ever his way, you can reach him at (62 361) 975 415 or rodanet@denpasar.wasantara.net.id. top

Images

bothA few images of Ubud

Children watch a cremation ceremony from behind school walls:

While other children look on from a closer location:

A figure from the Hindu Ulan Dano Temple:

Michelle sits on the stairs of a Hindu temple:

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A woman makes offerings to sale in the Ubud market. XXXXBalinese people make such offerings out of palm leaves, flowers, and incense for use in everyday rituals intended to appease supernatural forces. A carving guards the entrance to a temple in Bali. This cheerful old man smiled and nodded to us each time we passed by him on the street in Ubud, Bali. A woman places an offering on the altar of the Kintamani Ulan Dano Hindu temple in Bali. Old offerings cover the altar and the ground surrounding it. Four curious schoolgirls peer over a wall to watch a funeral procession pass by in the street. A cremation procession passes by in Ubud, Bali.XXXXThe cremation ceremony is one of the most important rituals in the life of a Balinese Hindu. It takes much time and money to plan and can take place up to years after the person's actual death.XXXXIn the photo here, the body is being carried from a temporary burial ground to the cremation ground in a high tower that can me made of anything including paper, bamboo, string, tinsel, mirrors, silk, cloth, flowers or other colorful items. The large group of men who carry the tower walk down the street in a seemingly drunken manner – zigzagging down the street and spinning the tower in circles. But far from being drunk, these men are trying to confuse the spirits so that they do not return home to cause mischief. An woman sifts rice near the touristy Elephant Temple in Bali, Indonesia.XXXXI took this photo with her permission, but then she demanded money afterward. I don't like to pay for photos, so I said no and walked away in a hail of curses.  I wonder what she cursed me with? A dancer in the Kecak (sounds like Kechak) dance in Ubud, Bali.  Listen to some of this music <a href='sounds.php3'>here</a>.

Lovina, Indonesia

Bus Ride to Lovina

michelleAfter a pleasant stay in Ubud, Tim and I decided to head north for a couple days. Our destination was Lovina, a beach resort area in north central Bali.

Our shuttle bus pick-up arrived on time at our hotel and took us to the main bus terminal which consisted of a small open-air hut full of red faced, sweaty tourists. It was still morning but the heat and humidity were taking their toll.

We all started to pile into an old unairconditioned bus. I wondered how the long line of passengers and all our luggage would fit. Suitcases and backpacks were piled high in the front of the bus and then spilled down the middle aisle and under seats. What we had been told would be a two hour ride was actually a bumpy four hours. As motorcycles whizzed by and hot air and dust flew through the open windows, I enjoyed my view of Bali. We passed lush green rice terraces carved into hilly slopes, children in uniform returning from school, and an endless amount of shops selling everything imaginable. We sped by masks, mirrors, fabrics, furniture, iron works, food stalls, wood carvings and much more. I know over one million tourists visit here annually, but I couldn't imagine even ten million tourists buying all the merchandise being sold.

When we arrived in Lovina at the bus stop we were greeted by more sweaty, red faced tourists. Only they were trying to leave Lovina. They had been waiting for our bus to arrive so it could turn right back around and take this new load to Ubud. It was a chaotic mess as luggage was unloaded off and loaded on, people disembarked and others lined up to board. Tim and I moved off to the side to let the dust settle a bit and figure out where we would spend the night. Touts approached, showed a brochure with pictures of their hotel and offered us free transportation. It sounded good so we grabbed our packs. Two motorcycles pulled up and one of the guys said to me, "Hop on." I stood looking at the small motorcycle and then looking at my huge, heavy backpack and shook my head saying, "You don't understand. It is REALLY heavy!" I couldn't see how my pack, the driver and myself would balance. "You can just balance it up front" he replied pointing to the area between the handlebars and the seat. I'm not a physics major but knew enough to understand the precariousness of the situation. Again I shook my head no, refusing to get on. I could just see my backpack, the bike, the driver and most importantly, myself, sprawled on the side of the road. There was an awkward moment of what to do when luckily, a van drove up that could take us.

Tim in the poolWhen we arrived at the hotel (safely I might add) Tim did a wonderful job negotiating a rate for a room: 50,000 RP. For the equivalent of $6.25 a night we got a nice room, breakfast, and the use of a sparkling blue pool surrounded by gardens, aquariums and cages with exotic birds. Not bad! top

Dolphin Hunt

timThe Lovina dolphin trip vendors used up my patience within five minutes of yesterday's arrival. Standing in packs outside our hotel room, they promised great deals and special prices. I wanted nothing more than a shower to wash away the sweat and dirt from our bus ride, so we waved them away with ambiguous answers.

Later, individual vendors approached us on the beach and on the street. They knocked on our room door, then woke me up from an afternoon nap by the pool. (I know, rough life.) We eventually gave in to their demands and booked a tour with the cheapest guy.

Waking up at 5:30 AM to see dolphins is a bit extreme, but I would have woken up then anyway because of the cacophony outside. Roosters crowed, motorcycles roared, people yelled, children cried, dogs barked, and Germany's worst Elvis impersonator sang the refrain from "Can't Help Falling in Love" at least 20 times from the room next door.

Elvis was especially loud, as his voice echoed over the thin baffle separating our bathrooms.

We arrived to the beach before sunrise, where an endless line of white dugout canoes stretched across the sand. Our boat looked very similar to the others. It held just four passengers and a captain. The hull was thick and heavy, yet carved just wide enough to seat one passenger. Two angled arms reached over each side holding a bamboo outrigger. The outriggers made the other boats seem spider-like as they skittered across water.

We launched our boat and followed the pack out to sea. Minutes later, the sun rose from behind the hazy mountains and reflected brilliant orange rays off the glassy water. I admired the view only for a minute, my attention diverted to the spectacle up ahead. A tangle of boats raced haphazardly around in circles looking for dolphins. We entered the confusion in our boat and began to look.

Then it happened - someone spotted them. Over thirty-five boats turned and raced toward the poor animals. The dolphins played for a minute and disappeared. The cycle continued over and over again for 30 minutes: dolphins sited, dolphins chased by crazy tourists, dolphins vanished. I enjoyed the absurdity of the hunt more than seeing the dolphins themselves, even when we became the lead boat and saw them up close.

When we returned back to the hotel after a short snorkel trip, we were again serenaded by Elvis.

"Wise men say, only fools rush in...." top

Cock Fight

tim Paul was an opportunist. Two days ago he knocked on our door and sold us a dolphin tour. Today he returned with a rooster under one arm and invited us to a cockfight. He extended the invitation in a friendly way, like asking a friend out to dinner. But under the act, I felt him looking at me like a human ATM. When he mentioned the 10,000 rupiah entry fee we would have to pay him, I knew he was lying. But I didn't mind shelling out $1.20 US for a guide to an event that I couldn't attend normally.

We collected three other travelers, walked inland for about twenty minutes, and arrived to a dusty clearing. Past the rows of motorcycles lay the main attraction: a 20 x 20 foot bamboo square staked into the ground like a two foot high boxing ring. Men gathered in clusters around the ring talking, their bouts of laughter occasionally breaking the mummer of light conversation. Only five women were present, but three were tourists in our party and two were selling drinks.

Paul handed his chicken to a shriveled old man who ran the event. The old man worked quickly, attaching sharp knives to the rooster's feet with endless loops of thin red string. As Paul's rooster was a three-time winner, the old man tied the knives closer to the center of the feet to give the opponent an advantage.

Bets were completed and the match began. The old man placed the cocks in the center of the ring and riled them up. The roosters went after each other in a clucking frenzy, pecking at each other, ripping out feathers, and drawing blood. The crowd howled and feathers flew.

The old man paused the match and placed both chickens in a woven overturned basket, where the fight continued in a confined space. Paul's chicken jumped and slashed the challenger's leg. The old man lifted the basket so the fight could continue in open space, but the challenger slumped to the ground. Blood covered both roosters, but Paul's rooster won the match.

Michelle winced and looked away when an assistant slit the throat of the loser and handed the body to Paul to keep. He held it up, joking about having chicken soup for dinner. The loser's previous owner looked at Michelle and sadly mouthed, "I lost."

By this time the crowd had grown to over 80 people. A freshly erected gambling area sat adjacent to the ring, and drew the cockfight spectators over. I didn't understand the rules of the game, but it involved cards, numbers, and lots of money.

We didn't stick around for a second match, but plenty of other events kept our attention. A man slashed three of his fingers with a poisoned knife used in the fight and immediately passed out. Amazingly, a group of men carried him to a motorcycle, sandwiched his limp body between two people, and drove him over dirt roads to a doctor.

As a vegetarian, I found the cockfight somewhat gruesome. Nevertheless, I'm glad I had the opportunity to go. Most importantly, I enjoyed asking Michelle what kind of chicken dish she wanted for lunch as we left the dusty clearing.

I think she may be one step closer to becoming a vegetarian herself. top

Motorcycle Ride

michelleToday Tim and I rented a motorcycle to ride through the north hills of Bali. Tim owned a motorcycle years ago so I had confidence in his driving skills, but I was still nervous. Drivers here are unpredictable and our helmets were cheap plastic hats.

Off we rode, rice fields on our left and the ocean on our right. Eventually we turned inland, heading up steep, winding roads. The motorcycle would sputter and cough at times, struggling with the steep incline. We had a fantastic view of the ocean and surrounding valleys below.

People were unusually friendly. Not many tourists come through this way so Tim's white face must have seemed unusual. I waved to people as we passed. Children would run out to the road shouting greetings while adults would smile and wave. Once we stopped to ask directions and it seemed the whole village came out to see us. One little boy even grabbed my buttocks! I, of course, gave him a disapproving look and then we both giggled. With all the attention I think it was the closest I will come to being famous.

We made a couple stops along the way. First we visited some hot springs, watching people bath in stone pools with water-spouting carvings. Then we stopped at Bali's only Buddhist monastery, Brahmavihara Arama. The monastery was very tranquil, with people sitting quietly in front of Buddha statues meditating.

We returned the motorcycle late in the afternoon, sweaty and dirty, but smiling. It was a wonderful day. top

Ubud, Indonesia

Cooking School

timToday was our second day of cooking classes at the Casa Luna Cooking School.

The school is run by Janet, an expatriate Aussie who also runs two restaurants, a bakery, and a guesthouse with her Balinese husband of many years. She talked at length about living in Bali and raising her four children here, and was able give me as much insight about Balinese life as she did about Balinese cuisine.

We spent the morning with a walk through the Ubud market, a very chaotic place. The vendors that cram the stalls of the three-story building sell everything from clothes to food. In a typical developing world style, ripe vegetables and colorful spices share space with trash and flies. But that didn't upset the class. We were happy to listen to Janet as she held up and described each Balinese spice and vegetable for sale.

We went back to her house. She claims her husband is a stickler for detail; her home is full of intricate carvings, rich tile floors, and warm wooden furniture. It is a great place to spend the afternoon. We reviewed our ingredients, cooked several dishes, and had a great lunch served with homemade rice wine.

Unfortunately, Michelle and I had to leave quickly to make our appointment at a local spa. For about $10 we treated ourselves to a full body massage, exfoliation, and spice bath.

Life on the road is rough. top

A woman makes offerings to sale in the Ubud market. XXXXBalinese people make such offerings out of palm leaves, flowers, and incense for use in everyday rituals intended to appease supernatural forces. A carving guards the entrance to a temple in Bali. This cheerful old man smiled and nodded to us each time we passed by him on the street in Ubud, Bali. A woman places an offering on the altar of the Kintamani Ulan Dano Hindu temple in Bali. Old offerings cover the altar and the ground surrounding it. Four curious schoolgirls peer over a wall to watch a funeral procession pass by in the street. A cremation procession passes by in Ubud, Bali.XXXXThe cremation ceremony is one of the most important rituals in the life of a Balinese Hindu. It takes much time and money to plan and can take place up to years after the person's actual death.XXXXIn the photo here, the body is being carried from a temporary burial ground to the cremation ground in a high tower that can me made of anything including paper, bamboo, string, tinsel, mirrors, silk, cloth, flowers or other colorful items. The large group of men who carry the tower walk down the street in a seemingly drunken manner – zigzagging down the street and spinning the tower in circles. But far from being drunk, these men are trying to confuse the spirits so that they do not return home to cause mischief. An woman sifts rice near the touristy Elephant Temple in Bali, Indonesia.XXXXI took this photo with her permission, but then she demanded money afterward. I don't like to pay for photos, so I said no and walked away in a hail of curses.  I wonder what she cursed me with? A dancer in the Kecak (sounds like Kechak) dance in Ubud, Bali.  Listen to some of this music <a href='sounds.php3'>here</a>.

Gunung Bromo, Indonesia

Traveling to Java

michelleToday we left Bali and traveled by bus and ferry to Java. Within the first hour on Java I could already see a difference in the two islands. Gone were the lush green valleys. Instead, Java is much drier and flat. The eleven-hour trip from Ubud, Bali to Mt. Bromo, Java left us exhausted. Not so much physically, but emotionally due to the crazy driving!

Riding in the bus, sitting towards the front, we had a good view of the events on the road. Our bus must share the thin roads with bicycles, mopeds, ox and cart, cars, buses and trucks. Our driver passed other vehicles, at high speeds, by going into the opposite lane, with on-coming traffic clearly in sight. It felt like a giant game of "chicken". Neither driver would slow and at the last minute our bus would swerve back into the correct lane with just inches to spare before a collision. It was like he was daring the other vehicles to hit him. Many times I just had to close my eyes û it was too painful to watch. Thankfully we arrived to Mt. Bromo safely, late at night. top

Volcano Sunrise

timGunung Bromo (Mt. Bromo) is a live volcano located in eastern Java and one of Java's must-see attractions. It shares a surreal sandy landscape with two other mountains, actually formed inside the 10 km wide crater of another ancient volcano named Tengger Massif.

It is said that mountains in Asia must be visited at sunrise. For us, this meant stumbling out of bed to meet a jeep at 3:30 AM. The driver took us 15 km: up the mountain to the rim of Tengger Massif, down into the giant crater to the Sand Sea, across the Sand Sea to another mountain called Gunung Penanjakan, and up a winding trail to the highest point in the area (2770 meters).

At 5 AM the path to the viewing area buzzed with activity. Along the way, vendors sold noodles and hot coffee; bluish light from their florescent lights lit the path. The chilly air was much colder than most Indonesians and tourists are used to, so other enterprising vendors sold hats and jackets.

We waited in the darkness with rows of other eager people. Minutes later, a thin warm line broke the blue horizon, the horizon grew from red to yellow, and Mt. Bromo's shape took form in the center of the caldera. The sun continued rising and topped the distant mountains, spreading a golden light along the top of the smoking volcano. The light crept slowly down the side, passing the mountain's base and spreading across the Sand Sea of the caldera. It was a beautiful sight, worth the price of waking so early. top

The smoking crater of the Mount Bromo volcano of East Java (2,392 meters), Indonesia. The sun rises near the Mount Bromo volcano in East Java, Indonesia.

Solo, Indonesia

City Sights

michelleIndonesia is so different from home but yet I find it very comfortable. What I might consider drawbacks û the air pollution, crazy traffic, and constant noise û add to the flavor of the country. After a morning spent exploring Solo (we arrived last night), we sit in a cafe drinking chai tea and listening to funky music. Out the door I see motorcycles whiz by. A man across the street sleeps on a bench oblivious to the bustle around him. Becak drivers pedal high above their red or blue becaks, carrying passengers. A food vendor goes by with a cart full of food, ringing a bell. Vendors make different noises to advertise which foods they are selling. For example, this vendor is selling satay û meat grilled on skewers. If he was selling noodles, he would bang two sticks together. It is good to sit back and watch the activity outside, while escaping the heat. Observing the people, is it easy to grow fond of them.

The Indonesian people have had a lot of turmoil in their country. There were riots here in Solo in 1998 and you can still see remnants in the burned out buildings dotting the city. But the people we meet, despite their hardships, are consistently friendly, helpful and welcoming. top

Yogyakarta, Indonesia

The Water Palace

timThe Sultan of Yogyakarta built the Water Palace around 1760. It contained a fantastic collection of bathing areas, pools, waterways, and buildings.

The water is now gone, thanks to an earthquake in the 1900's. The lake that once held the royal boat is full of homes and many of the buildings have been reduced to rubble. But the Water Palace still holds (dry) bathing areas, stone corridors, and a mosque.

We walked though a series of dark stone corridors to get to the mosque. It was quiet, secluded, and gave me just a hint of treading off into the past. top

Borobudur Thoughts

timBorobudur was built around 800 AD and, with over 1000 carvings depicting Buddhist thought, served as a 60,000 cubic meter stone guide to Buddhism for visiting pilgrims. The temple rises above the Javanese jungle in nine levels. The first six levels contain carved stone panels depicting the cause and effect of abusing sense pleasures; the top three levels represent achieving nirvana through conquering abuse of sense pleasures. We ascended the monument in circles, appreciating the stone carvings of each level's gallery. At the top, after playing tourist by trying to capture the moment on film, I relaxed and watched the sun rise above the quiet jungle. It was a peaceful moment; I sat imagining the hands that carved the stone around me 1200 years ago.

As impressive as the monument was, my mind was elsewhere when we left.

We watched an audio visual show on the way back to the car. The show itself was mediocre, but it explained the story of a Buddhist carving from a nearby temple. "The Bird with Two Heads" has a bottom head and a top head. The top head gets to eat delicious ripe fruit, while the bottom head is forced to eat rotten fruit that falls to the ground. The bottom head complains to the top head, but the top head just shrugs off the complaints arguing that it doesn't matter. "After all," it says, "the fruit all goes to the same stomach." The bottom head eventually becomes so despondent that it eats poison mushrooms, killing both heads.

The movie depicted the real-life analogy of this story well, starting with poor hawkers begging to sell anything to rich tourists and ending with society's self-destruction when such problems are ignored. The clash of Haves verses Have-nots is clear in developing countries. I'd declined pleading offers from hundreds of such hawkers in the last week alone.

The minds of travelers tend to dance around such thoughts, but the story didn't. What is my best response to this? In a week at home I make more than many people here do in six years - like the fisherman in Pangandaran who told Michelle he could get by on $1.20 a day with a wife and kid. My airfare to Indonesia alone would be $800 yet I'm living on a budget and reducing myself to feeling poor in an effort to save money while travelling. Even at my poorest, I'm more wealthy than many of the native Haves. I feel guilty for ignoring the conditions of poverty that cause people to beg me to buy from them, yet I get annoyed when they hassle me so often. I want to help, but how does buying one overpriced bottle of water help the 240,000,000 people that live in this nation alone? top

The massive Borobudur Buddhist temple.XXXXBorobudur was built around 800 AD and, with over 1000 carvings depicting Buddhist thought, served as a 60,000 cubic meter stone guide to Buddhism for visiting pilgrims. The temple rises above the Javanese jungle in nine levels. The first six levels contain carved stone panels depicting the cause and effect of abusing sense pleasures; the top three levels represent achieving nirvana through conquering abuse of sense pleasures. An underground passage from Yogyakarta's Taman Sari (Water Castle / Water Palace). <BR/><BR/>The Taman Sari complex was a grand water park built by Sultan Hamengku Buwono I in 1757. Much of its majesty has faded with the years, but visitors can still walk the ruins of the old passageways and buildings.

Pangandaran, Indonesia

A Fishing Village

michelleSquinting, I look out over the ocean. It's mid-morning and the sun in shining brightly and the sea air is thick with the smell of salt. Tim and I are standing on the beach of Pangandaran, a small fishing village in central Java. Directly in front of us the shore is covered with brightly painted fishing boats and the busy activity of fishermen working with focused intensity, bringing in their catches from the previous night.

Boats come and go, men carry large bundles of prawns in nets while fish are unloaded in large woven baskets. Down the shore I see people slowly and methodically pulling in nets from the ocean. Tim and I watch for almost an hour, mesmerized by all the activity.

Then we head to a restaurant nearby and pick from a fresh selection of fish and prawns displayed on ice. We watch as they grill our food and then enjoy a delicious meal for about $3.00.

 

 

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Villagers in Pangandaran, Indonesia, pull a fishing net in from the surf. An evil monkey lies in wait for an unsuspecting photographer to happen by and take a photo - so it can bare its teeth and chase him around the beach in Pangandaran, Indonesia.

Jakarta, Indonesia

Get Used To It

timAsk travelers who enter Indonesia through Jakarta to describe the city and you will hear nothing but criticism. They cry out about the city's dirt, pollution, crowds, and traffic. They will tell you that the city streets are so crazy that you can't even walk across the street.

We arrived in Jakarta with these stories in our thoughts, but quickly dispelled them as false. Chaotic traffic filled the streets, but aside from the addition of noisy three wheeled tuk-tuks, the traffic whirled around us just like in the rest of the country. The same fumes from small motorcycles sputtered into the air. The same food stalls crowded the sidewalks and forced pedestrians to walk around. I didn't think of Jakarta as a nice place, but I was sure it didn't deserve the horrible reputation that my fellow travelers had handed to me with distaste.

After just one hour in the Malaysian capital city of Kuala Lumpur, I understood the slamming of Jakarta. Our plane arrived to a brand new futuristic terminal and a new air conditioned Mercedes bus took us down a beautiful four-lane highway past brightly painted buildings that sparkled with color. A permanent dense haze no longer colored the sky like the one I had become so used to in Indonesia. The streets were clean and orderly. Drivers actually stopped for red lights and let pedestrians cross in safety.

When you travel, your expectations rise and fall to the level of your surroundings. When I arrived to Jakarta, I had come from a month of traveling through Indonesia and it seemed like a great place. Most of my fellow travelers arrived to Jakarta from Europe, Australia, Kuala Lumpur, or Singapore. The transition for them was so abrupt that they hated the city, yet I had some time to fall into the rhythm of the city before I arrived and I liked it.

I guess the moral of the story is, if you stick around long enough anywhere, you can enjoy almost anything. top