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Published: April 19th 2008
Photos can't really do this amazing temple justice
The "Rules" of Indonesia
1. If a traffic light turns red (STOP!) this means that you should "consider" stopping within five seconds of the change..... unless of course you are a BUS in which case, there is no such thing as a red light.
2. All roads, including inter-city roads are single lane in both directions. Cars drive on the left. Buses however may use both the left and right side of the road, in both directions and usually at night time on blind corners.
For motorcyclists there is no such thing as a side of the road. Or more often, as they swerve past you on footpaths, any awareness that the concept of a "road' even exists.
3. Everything must be fried. At least once. For example, chicken pieces are fried in bulk and then left on display in the windows of restaurants. Upon ordering one, said chicken is then re-fried in order to remove whatever new bacterial civilizations have developed.
Every meal here is a bit like eating last night's left over Chinese. A typical day goes like this. Breakfast - steamed or fried rice with meat (of unknown origin) and/or some
One of many
These statues are all over Bali and people place small offerings in front of them at least twice a day as part of their Hindu faith.
fried parcels of (most likely) last night's left over rice. Lunch - repeat as per breakfast, but with the added options of noodles (fried), various meats (fried) or soup made up of whatever was not eaten at breakfast, which in effect makes it a kind of "fried everything" soup. Dinner - see lunch. Should an Indonesian get hold of a vegetable or some cheese the compulsion to fry it is immense. There are of course some exceptions to these rules but as the rulebook also seems to have been fried it is somewhat difficult to read.
4. Everyone must smoke everywhere.
5. The driver of a motorcycle must wear a helmet. A good law. However as the law does not require the driver's wife, the small baby she is carrying and the 1-2 other children on board to also wear a helmet, they, somewhat predictably, do not. Instead they hurl down either side of the road, while smoking, doing their best to avoid on-coming buses and slipping on any fat spillage on the road.
A Bali Beginning
Ok, having lambasted QANTAS in our last blog it is only fair to write
Restaurants fill up along the beach as the sun goes down
that we had a terrific flight to Bali on their (somewhat ironically) budget offshoot, JETSTAR. As usual we arrived with nothing organised but thanks to some advance knowledge of an accommodation desk at the airport we quickly sorted a cheap hotel and a taxi to a place in Kuta.
Kuta is a resort town for people (mostly Australians and Japanese) who want to holiday in Indonesia but without the Indonesian bit. It has a fantastic beach, loads of bars and nightclubs (this is where the famous Bali bombing took place) and is a surfing mecca. We sat on the beach and laughed (and winced) at loads of Japanese partaking in kamikaze surfing. There were so many people on every wave that it was a miracle no arms or legs washed up on shore. Perhaps they did but were swiftly whisked away to be fried.
Despite the drunken Aussies we really enjoyed our first three days which were mostly spent working on the new language and planning trips to the island of Java (to the west) and the island of Komodo (to the east). Our major highlight was a fresh fish (picked from a tank) dinner, by candlelight on
Saturday 12 April.
Jimbaran beach. As the sun went down the candles from the hundreds of other diners lit up a kilometre long stretch of beach while roving musicians moved amongst the tables performing for tips.
Brown Trouser Moments
Compared to Africa, transport in Indonesia was a lovely surprise. Buses have destination signs and they almost operate to a schedule. With this we easily made it across Bali to the west coast port of Gilimaunk and onto the ferry to Java. (30 mins). We then picked up another bus for a gruelling 13 hour, all night journey to our destination, Yogyakarta. Our plan was to sleep on the bus but we spent much of the night in a state of adrenaline fulled terror. (Hence the somewhat silly, but scarily accurate rules)
"Jogja" is most famous for it's classical Javanese arts of Batik, ballet, music and puppet shows. Finding Jogja's "best" batik gallery is like finding a Starbucks in central London..... i.e, there is one on every corner. For every gallery there are also at least five 'fixers' in the street whose whole happiness in life is dependent on sharing their gallery experience with you. ("Mister, mister, free to
Dave has somehow managed to reach the level of enlightenment - Nirvana
look"!). In the end we did buy a batik, but from the Government art school where we were able to learn how they are made and get a greater appreciation for the art.
Mine's bigger than yours
Batiks aside, our actual reason for visiting was the Buddhist temple of Borobudur, the largest monument in the southern hemisphere. Knowing that we are going to have thousands of opportunities to see temples we thought we might as well start with the biggest. Built in 775 AD this temple is a colossal multi-tiered structure that makes up part of a four kilometre long chain of temples. Through tens of thousands of stone carvings each tier of the structure tells the story of how Buddha came to be. It is also a Buddhist instruction manual for achieving enlightenment. The pyramid structure represents man's earthly existence, starting with basic desires (all the fun stuff, drinking, smoking, fornication etc) and ending with (if you are a very very very good Buddhist) Nirvana. Writing about it will not do it justice (hopefully the pictures will) but it is amazing place that was made all the better by having an informative guide.
Up to Nirvana
The (quite literal) path
weirdest part of the day (and something that is still happening) was the constant requests by various Asian tourists to have their photo taken with us. We must have been in 15 photos that day and people were so excited when we agreed. We can just imagine how many people will go home and tell their friends.... "yeah... the temple was ok.... but you should have seen these white people!"
Not to be outdone by the Buddhists, 18kms the other side of Jogja the Hindus also built an amazing temple complex at Prambanan. Unfortunately for them they built it rather close to the 6th most active volcano in the world so it was abandoned (in a bloody great hurry) and left to ruin. Now it has been partly restored and is also a fantastic place to visit. Once again it was the guided tour that really brought it to life, especially as we threw a constant barrage of questions at him.
We finished our time in Jogja with a trip to the Sultan's Palace (the current home of Sultan Hamengkubuwono IX) to see some Javanese Ballet and to check out his (you guessed it) somewhat impressive Batik collection.
Hanging with Mr B
He's a bit stoney faced but he's ok
Living On The Edge
From Jogja we took a couple of other "death rides" to get to our last major destination in Java, The Bromo Region. Java, like the whole of Indonesia is basically one enormous great smoking volcano. Java alone has hundreds of volcanoes, many of which are still clearly very active. Couple that with endless earthquakes, floods and the odd Tsunami and it's no wonder that the people here make offerings to their various Gods daily.
We had heard that you could climb a mountain called Gunung Penanjakan (2770m) in order to watch the sunrise across the entire Bromo area and to look down on the smoking crater of Gunung Bromo and at Java's highest (and deadliest Volcano) Gunung Semeru. The starting point is a mountain village called Wonokitri. This place is in the clouds and there are no buses so we negotiated two rides (with our packs) on the backs of motorcycles. Once there we sorted a place to sleep and found out how to get to the top. We were the ONLY tourists in the entire village and were, therefore, somewhat of a novelty to the 50 strong team of men
The local novelty
Wonokitri's hot ticket item
playing football after finishing work inthe endless terraced fields. It turns out that the "path" up Penanjakan is actually a paved road used to drive hundreds of tourists up in the high season to see the sunrise and then down into the valley and across the Sea of Sand to Bromo to climb the 249 steps to the smoking crater's edge. Although it was possible to hire a jeep from Wonokitri we decided to do the whole thing on foot, which is how we found ourselves walking 31km in one day, up and down the steepest roads you have ever seen and trudging across shifting sand in blistering heat. And what a terrific day it was...a real highlight for both of us and one of our best days so far. If you are thinking of doing this walk we suggest you leave Wonokitri at 2am. We left at 3am and it was a bit of a rush to get there.
But boy did we pay for that adventure with two virtually crippled days afterwards. Mind you, we were back on the buses heading for Bali, and who knows, a little crash might have done us some chiropractic good!
That's what a volcano should look like!Visited Countries Map
Mount Seremu as seen from our lookout at Gungung Penanjakan at sunrise
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