Jakarta-Yogyakarta-Seminyak, Bali

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January 20th 2013
Published: January 21st 2013
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So much has happened in the last nine days. I will have to segment this into two parts, or it will be much too large. Part 1: Jakarta to Seminyak

Our flight from Manila to Jakarta was disastrous, with Kris having recently been afflicted by chest pain, origin unknown. She fares poorly on flights when healthy, so she barely survived this one, the poor thing. We came out in the Soehkarna International Airport which was a drab, scarcely decorated, poorly designed place. Managing to ask for direction from a custom's worker who barely spoke english, we were taken upstairs to a second level where we were promptly ripped off for a taxi. We had a domestic flight to Yogyakarta that same night, four hours after we arrived, and the domestic terminal had to be driven to. The driver said 100, and I calculated that for a moment in Rupiah, the Indonesian currency (about 10,000 Rupiah to 1 CAD). About one cent, but of course this was a scam, for as soon as we arrived at our destination, he said 100,000. Not about to have him drive away with all of our luggage in his trunk, I grudgingly paid up and we made our way inside. We slept for a couple hours on the floor, and wearily managed our way onto our flight. Though it was only an hour long, Krista's condition was quickly deteriorating and her face was ghost-like when we arrived at Yogyakarta amidst a cheery morning glow. Another taxi, 50,000 this time for about 25x the distance, took us to Jalan Sosrowijayan (Jalan = Street) where we were planning on staying in a place called La Javanaise Homestay. Exiting the taxi, we were ushered down a small side street, taking numerous turns through brightly painted buildings until we arrived at a blue-green house. Not until later did we realize that this was not La Javanaise, but a place called Lotus Losmen. Nonetheless, we took a room for 10 dollars/night there. It had a fan, free wi-fi (something I had not expected), our own bathroom and a nice view over some clay-tiled rooftops. The only strange thing was that under the bedsheet there was a plastic cover which squeaked and groaned whenever we moved, but this was not anything to complain about. I'm sure we slept almost immediately and for quite a few hours. I woke up, for I had to go out and grab an Indonesian SIM card for our phone and load it with some money and find someplace for us to eat.

For the former, I was helped by a friendly local named Agus, who showed me to a modest shop where a girl sold me a SIM card and loaded my credit. As we stood there, he mentioned his friend who was an art student. He told me that, just around the corner, his friend had a Batik art gallery and was wondering if I'd like to see it. Why not? I had little else to do, and Krista was asleep back in the room. I let myself be led around the corner, and into a shop and up a flight of stairs I found myself in a studio, walls covered with paintings of varying colours and designs. A long-haired, earnest fellow introduced himself and Agus took his leave. A demonstration then took place, as he showed me the process of Batik painting. Batik, by the way, is their national style of art. The process is one of drawing on material with wax, and then soaking it in colour, therefore allowing the previous shade to remain after the wax is removed. This is repeated many, many times until a beautiful pattern is finished with often more than several colours. I was offered jasmine tea, as is the custom, my host explains. Gratefully, I accepted; it was very good tea. He asks which I would be most interested in buying. At this, I realize why I had been led there and after some excusing and much ado I managed to finish my tea and leave. All said and done, I had had a demonstration and the chance to view some beautiful artwork. Later on, when Krista woke up, we decided it was time to eat and settled down at a pleasant restaurant just down our street. One bite into her meal, Krista could not bear to eat any more to due extreme pain. It only seemed to worsen each day and once back at the room I delved into the internet to find an answer as to why. The culprit, it turns out, was a doxycyclene pill that had been taken without water and gotten stuck in her esophagus days before. This, as the majority of people online explained, dissolved and released harmful chemicals that damaged the esophageal wall causing a kind of lesion. That night the pain got to be so severe that I was left little choice but to find english-speaking medical assistance and take her there. It was a hospital called Bethesda Hospital and the receptionist and doctor both had great command of the english language. The doctor's verdict was to give her a painkiller and something to alleviate the effects of doxycyclene through an IV and keep her overnight. It did nothing except force us both to sleep on a skinny, hard hospital bed. Darcy was now on his way to meet us, to see what he could do to help her situation. We moved to a nicer hotel, Hotel Monica, so that Krista could rest in a comfortable, air-conditioned room. The heat was intense throughout the day, despite it being rainy season, so this was a welcome relief.

We attempted to see the royal palace, just a kilometer down Jalan Malioboro (the main street, adjacent to ours). Taking a rickshaw, after haggling down a ridiculous price, it was a pleasant ride and definitely our first time in such a transport. However, when we arrived there, we found both the masjid (mosque) and the palace closed in celebration of Muhammed's birthday. There was little else to see, and being hassled by incredibly persistent touts forced us back to our room. Darcy arrived the next morning and we checked into the Hotel Gloria Amanda, another step up in quality. Here we had a swimming pool, which we enjoyed thoroughly, having it all to ourselves. We did little else that day except walk up and down Jalan Malioboro, which was a two kilometer stretch of constant clothing stalls, peddlers and stores of varying goods. However, for the following morning we had planned a trip to nearby Borobodur, the largest Buddhist complex in the world. In the wee hours of the morning, Darcy and I had prepared to go without Krista, as she was still no better. But, just before we left she decided she could not bear to stay behind and showed great perseverance in tagging along with us. Arriving just after sunrise, the air was pleasantly cool and the sun hidden behind a cloudy sky. After free tea/coffee, and acquiring a constantly smiling and very knowledgable guide, we set off into the grounds surrounding the complex. As we passed various trees, he made note of each, describing the uses of their flowers, or any interesting about them. Small white flowers on one such tree, he explained, were crushed up and taken by woman as a means of makeshift abortion. He also showed us a Tik (spelling?) tree, which contains the most valuable wood in the world. Taking a young leaf from this tree he said, look, and, crushing it between his fingers, a bright, blood red pulp was produced. We also were shown fresh mint that was growing beside a stone path; it was an invigorating smell, being so fresh. Moving on, with the guide explaining the histories behind the temple, we learned it was built by a Buddhist kingdom in the 9th century.

The complex has 8 levels, which we ascended clockwise in the traditional way. The rocks that the temple was carved from varied between three colours, and were all lava rock. As we entered, he explained that none of the stones were cemented in any way, but rather interlocked and left loose to guard against the damages of earthquakes. Every single wall was covered in beautiful carvings, which were surprisingly well-preserved and retained almost all of its incredible detail. Some of these portayals were explained to us as we circled around, admiring the moss-covered stones and the ancient craftmanship inlaid into the walls. We were shown and told the story of how Siddhartha (Buddha's original name) came to be born, all the way up until the point where the sheltered young king decided to leave his majestic palace to become a monk. Here, after stopping to take a few pictures by a lion statue and the most picturesque Buddha in the entire place (according to our guide), we went straight to the top, having only two hours to be there. The last level contained no carvings, and contained only giant stupas. A stupa is a Buddhist figure consisting of three basic shapes: a lotus flower, a bowl and a walking stick, in that order from bottom to top and upside down. It creates a bell-shaped figure. Each of these contained a statue of the Buddha inside. There were two that were topless and the Buddhas could be seen clearly. These encircled a giant stupa which was the pinnacle of the entire temple. This, however, was covered in a protective measure against volcanic ash, and so was anti-climactic. On our way out we were shown a cinammon tree and we broke off some leaves to smell. I now appreciate the smell and taste of cinammon more fully than I have ever before. And so, we left Borobodur. On our way home way made a short, half-hour stop at another stone structure in a similar style. But, what really caught our attention was a Buddhist monastery just across the road. Open to visitors we entered through silver and bronze gates, facing a stone obelisk with an intricately carved statue and a pathway bordered with lotus flowers and beautifully carved statues that led to a large, stone shrine a few hundred feet away. To my left I found an enormous sleeping Buddha and a small temple. Taking off my sandals I entered and lit an incense in front of the shrine, behind which laid another sleeping Buddha, this time covered in a blanket. It was a serene experience and I lingered in the silence for a moment before returning the bustling sounds of the Indonesian roadway.

The next day we left on a train for Surabaya, where we had a very unpleasant room in a horribly located hotel for a night. We then boarded a train the next morning which would take us to a ferry on Java's eastern point, where we would board a bus and continue onto Denpasar, in Bali. The first few hours were uneventful and the scenery was largely uninteresting. Then, without warning, the countryside plunged into uneven terrain. It transformed into lush, dense jungle with outstanding views of rolling hills, rivers and volcanoes in the distance. We all went in between the cars and opened the doors to watch the countryside roll by. Rice terraces fell into gorges and it was quite a thrill to be inches away from the edge when the train passed over one. Every time I waved at a local standing beside the tracks they broke into a great smile, though the most gratifying smiles were those of little girls who shyly waved back. There was also the spectacular sight of naked men bathing in the irrigation runways, with apparently no shame (I'm sure there were other places to bath than in front of a railway). I relished every rise and fall of the land and all three of us stayed by our open doors until the terrain evened out and returned to its previous state. It is no secret that trains are an excellent way to see a country and our ride that day was certainly a testament to that statement. Once arrived at the port town we hopped onto a bus that drove onto a ferry. The ferry was torturously slow in its crossing of a not-so-great distance and by the time we drove off on the other side it was dark. A very long four hours later we arrived in Denpasar and proceeded to take a taxi to Seminyak, where Devi was staying in a hotel room. End part one.

There a few extra pictures from our further travels around Bali, but that will be described in part two. It was simply easier to upload them all at once, because it takes a painfully long time to do so.


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