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I N D O N E S I A   ( J A V A )

15.09.2011, 10:15   ---   A spectacular start in Indonesia  

Once I arrived on Pulau Batam I checked straight-away my onward-travel options: The next boat to Java only left 2 days later, but flights were still available. I could have booked it at this agency at the harbour, but I thought it would rather be cheaper to book directly with the airline at the airport… NOPE! At the airline’s counter I got a price quote of about 30USD above that harbour-price (which is quite a huge difference talking about a 90USD-flight)! I nagged a little bit how that could be and at least got a little discount, but it was still more expensive. Well, there was obviously not much I could do about it, I booked that flight and once I got to the cashier I had to pay even way less, 15USD below harbour-price – do I have to understand that? However, I just paid quickly and left before they might change their mind again! ;-) Soon after that I was already on the plane to Surabaya, had some delicious Nasi Goreng, met heaps of incredibly nice, helpful, interested and outgoing people (I know, I say that about almost every country, but the Indonesians easily beat all the others!!) and next morning I moved on to Cemoro Lawang at Gunung Bromo.

The Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park is a dreamlike and also quite active volcanic landscape. The cosy little village of Cemoro Lawang is situated right on the rim of the vast Tengger crater, from which the volcanoes Batok, Bromo and Kursi arise and the huge Gunung Semeru lies in the background. Along with Coralie and Nico, who I met on the bus, I planned to climb the top of Gunung Pananjakan in the early morning to watch the sunrise above the National Park. So at 3am the night was already over (for me even at 2am though as my cellphone’s time was still set for Singapore…), in the freezing cold we left for the mountain (Yes, even that close to the equator it gets cold at an altitude of over 2000m!), enjoyed a hot coffee just before reaching the top and right on time for the sunrise we arrived at a perfect viewpoint with only a handful of other people. The landscape in front of us was breathtaking, totally surreal!! The ground of the Tengger crater was covered by a thick blanket of clouds, from where the smoking volcanoes rose upon, overlooked by Gunung Semeru in the background and a clear blue sky all around us. With the rising sun the colours of the volcanoes changed, the clouds on the ground cleared up slowly and we made our way back.
After breakfast in our favourite Warung (Warungs are simple Indonesian restaurants) and a decent nap we felt quite fit again and took off for our second hike of the day, this time down into the Tengger crater to climb Gunung Bromo. The blue sky was unfortunately gone, instead thick clouds created a somewhat mystic atmosphere in the ash-grey volcanic scenery. Once we arrived at the crater rim we stood right in front of a huge hole, we heard the inside simmer and thick smoke arose from the hole – WOW! Nothings fenced off for safety of course and while we enjoyed this spectacular site from a more or less safe distance two elderly locals were crawling through the boulders and ashes inside the crater. Whatever they might have been looking for, I constantly imagined them disappearing in that smoking hole, crazy.
When we arrived back in the village just before sunset we were really exhausted, but totally happy. Only a hot shower could have made this day even better… an unrealistic wish. A basic bathroom in Indonesia reaches a whole new dimension: A “kamar mandi” (bathroom) has got the already very familiar squat-toilet and a big water tank with a plastic scoop, which is used to flush the toilet and also to take a shower, the water is according to the outside temperature freezing cold of course!! Hard times for a passionate hot-bather like me… ;-)

After a cosily cramped minibus ride (somehow there’s always room for one more person!) our ways parted and I’m slowly getting closer to Jakarta and my flight to Borneo .
After such a long time in well organised areas regarding tourism it’s just fantastic to be back in a country where one can just show up at a bus station and take the next bus about to leave instead of booking a day in advance and being hauled from A to B with only other travellers. Some of the buses and especially minibuses only leave when full, they stop wherever someone flags them down, from time to time local musicians board for a short distance and there are always drinks and snacks for sale everywhere along the way… a little bit like in Africa . :-)
Oh well, Indonesia is just great and I’m already looking forward to come back for another couple of weeks after Borneo ! :-)

23.09.2011, 19:00   ---   Smoothly rocked into the second year

After Gunung Bromo I spent yet another great week in Java, met fantastic people and took heaps of photos with locals (in some areas a foreigner is obviously still a rare sight). My first destination was the town of Malang . It was just a short overnight stop to break up the long journey and not all that spectacular. But I came across a really “interesting” animal market, the Pasar Senggol. They had loads of birds (everything from a budgie to a goose), fishes, hamsters, rabbits, squirrels, cats, owls, monkeys… EVERYTHING!!! Most animal’s condition was even surprisingly alright (though perched together in tiny cages), only the monkeys looked quite miserable. But what are all the animals for?? Since almost nobody around spoke English that was a bit difficult to find out, but I do know the Indonesian word for “eat”, so that was clear. ;-) Anyway, later I was told that Indonesians also like to have them as pets or sometimes they even use certain animals for medical purposes (especially raven blood apparently).

Awaiting me next was a horrible and 100% sleepless night on a bus. Two incredible hell-drivers shared the driving, I sat in the first row, unspoilt view on uncountable terrific overtaking manoeuvres and just as many near-accidents, even with closed eyes I noticed the hectic light signals of the oncoming traffic, not to mention the permanent honking – Sleeping impossible and my nerves totally wrecked (although they are actually used to quite a lot of trouble yet)!

I spent the next few days in Yogyakarta (short Yogya). That’s Indonesia ’s second largest city, the cultural centre of Java and accordingly touristy. Wherever one goes Becak (bicycle taxi) and horse carriage drivers will be hassling to take you just anywhere, preferably one should visit every single batik-shop too… annoying! Nevertheless an interesting city! I visited the Kraton (the Sultan’s palace), got shown around the Water Castle (an earlier Sultan’s secret pleasure park) and also had a look at some seriously nice handicrafts. Oh well, and I watched a Wayang Kulit, a Javanese shadow puppet theatre accompanied by a traditional orchestra. Of course it’s all in Indonesian and I didn’t understand a word and also otherwise it wasn’t any spectacular entertainment… but it’s part of the culture and quite nice to watch it once.

My highlight in Yogya was Borobudur , a Buddhist temple from the 8th century, really nice. Just the Sunday afternoon might have been a semi-optimal time to visit as it was very crowded. But most people just take the main stairs up to the top stupa and go right back down anyway, so many parts of the temple were still empty.
Sundays also seem to be popular for school classes to practise their English with random foreigners. Right at the entrance I bumped into a group of students interviewing foreigners about their origin for homework, only a moment later I found myself teaching English to a class for almost half an hour, when I left the temple yet another group was waiting… I really don’t mind helping and it’s fun too, but at some point it’s just enough! ;-)

Next stop was Jakarta , the noisy, hectic and extremely pedestrian-unfriendly capital of Indonesia ! A city which I wouldn’t mind avoiding in future, but the first anniversary of my trip was coming up and just on that day Linkin Park were about to play a concert in Jakarta – a real treat for me after a whole year without any rock concerts and probably the best way to celebrate this day!
Surprisingly the tickets were just as expensive as they would be back home, which is a real fortune for Indonesian standards! That probably explains why the show was only set up in a tiny area inside the huge Bung Karno Stadium. For half the price they could have easily sold three times the amount of tickets or otherwise they just could’ve played in a club… well, whatever! ;-) After a last-minute ticket-discount they just managed to sell out the festival area by the time I arrived in Jakarta, but just as back home one can always rely on the ticket-mafia right at the venue! ;-) Just at the entrance I bumped into Ari by chance, who had helped me to find the right bus to the city centre when I arrived the day before, of course everybody was as curious as usual to see what a single foreigner is doing there, the entire stadium area was crowded with armed police men (everything from a truncheon to a machine gun – Jakarta seems to be seriously scared of further bombs or the like) and eventually I ended up in the first row of probably the smallest concert Linkin Park have played in years. To cut it short: It was just great, the band rocked it hard, the crowd was in a crazy mood and totally happy I went back to the guesthouse with a drumstick, two plecs and a wrecked voice. :-)

After a whole lot of security checks at the airport yesterday (there wasn’t even any time for a coffee between check-in and boarding) I flew to the Malaysian part of Borneo, spent today with getting sorted several visa issues, my passport is now on holiday at the Indonesian consulate and I am finally on my way to Sipadan Island – world-class-diving here I come! :-)


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