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Return Flight Part 1: Monday, August 7, 2017

Giant goddess

On our way from Ubud to Denpasar, we passed this gigantic statue in a round about. I don’t know what it is supposed to be about.

After my visit to the Prapen silver factory, my host drove me out of Ubud and south to the airport at Denpasar. I paid him for the ride (400,000 rupiah) and the two days’ room (800,000 rupiah) I was down to about 175,000 rupiah. I had no trouble going through the first security checkpoint, then checked in at the Garuda desk. I had to pay 270,000 rupiah by credit card (about $20) for my 10 kg extra weight (I had redistributed some things to try to carry on as much weight as possible – hard on my shoulders, easier on my pocketbook). After checking my bags, paying the extra, and getting my boarding passes I went through internal security and walked to Gate 2.

Bali coastline from air

The coastline of Bali near Denpasar. I never did get to the beach, but that wasn’t why I came. The large mountain looming in the distance is either Gunung Agung in eastern Bali or Gunung Rinjani on nearby Lombok. It’s hard to tell with the cloud deck.

I had plenty of time – I could have seen or done one other thing before coming to the airport, but I am tired and ready to go home and I was ready to head to the airport. I’ve seen and done many things in the last 3 ½ weeks, as much as I can possibly expect from myself. I knew that I couldn’t do everything I wanted to do in Bali with only two days; the traffic, winding roads, and my own age prevented me from seeing everything on my bucket list. I am satisfied that I did as much as I could do and saw the very best things. I can’t ask for more.

Bali coastline with boat

The reefs and beaches of Bali below.

I was getting hungry again. My appetite has been iffy these four weeks, mostly because I have been backed up. Of all the medicines I brought, I didn’t think constipation would be my biggest problem. So I knew if I was hungry, I should eat. I found a place called Beard Papas that served one thing only: cream puffs. That sounded good, and I had enough money left. I got one and a Pulpy Orange drink, and it was really good – the best cream puff I’ve ever had. So I stood in line again and had another. But that still wasn’t enough, so I had fish and chips at a place near Gate 2. The fries were good, the fish a bit different.

Towns and rice from air

Rice fields and towns from the air (approaching Jakarta). Some areas are clear (brownish) because they are between crops for a few weeks. Indonesian farmers can harvest two crops per year.

Note: Two weeks after returning home, someone tried to use my credit card information to get cash advances in Denpasar. The company flagged the purchases as suspicious and we cancelled the card. The only legitimate charge I have on the card in Denpasar is the restaurant I ate the fish and chips at (Hari’s) in the airport. I still have the card; it wasn’t stolen, so the card’s information must have been copied. The techniques for doing this have become quite sophisticated. But just in case, be careful dining here or anywhere you use a credit card. Pay cash if you can. Use a mylar reflective shield in your wallet with your credit card on the inside so that people can’t scan your card as you walk by.

Rice fields approaching Jakarta

Rice fields and villages approaching the airport at Jakarta on my last day in (or over) Indonesia.

I waited at the gate and worked on cleaning up photos from Friday’s excursions. I was able to e-mail Becca and tell her I was at the airport and ask her to look into the Booking.com problem. Then I thought I heard them call to board the plane, even though we were a good 30 minutes before the specified boarding time. The lady at the gate confirmed it was time, so I walked down the jetway and boarded the plane. I was in row 31, which is an emergency exit row, which I had entirely to myself. It was great.

Astronaut hydrant painting

Red fire hydrants are mounted at intervals along the white walls of the Jakarta airport concourse. Someone has painted whimsical murals that incorporate the hydrants, such as this Apollo astronaut on the Moon.

The flight itself was peaceful. I’m getting used to flying Garuda Indonesia. They may be a bit more expensive than some, but still cheap at about $100 for each of these intra-Indonesian flights. I saw Mt. Bromo again, then we turned more north and away from the volcanoes, out over the ocean, and back toward Jakarta. I listened to the Best of Bad Company. Somehow it seemed appropriate while flying.

Monster hydrant

A luggage monster eating a fire hydrant.

I got some nice views of rice fields in the late afternoon as we turned into Jakarta and landed. It was a bit of a hike from our entry gate to the baggage claim area, and I noticed some fun murals painted around each of the fire extinguishers, incorporating them into the design, such as using it as the tip of a lipstick or a scuba tank or the backpack of an astronaut or the body of a spaceship. I took photos, of course.

Spaceship hydrant

A fire hydrant turned into a space ship. This is my favorite of the murals in the Jakarta airport.

Lipstick hydrant

A fire hydrant turned into red lipstick for Marilyn Monroe’s lips (I know because of the mole . . . )

I walked out of the departure area, then took an elevator upstairs to the drop off zone and went through security again. I am on a Delta flight through Korean Air Lines to Seoul, a seven-hour flight that won’t take off until 10:05 pm. The KAL check-in desk wasn’t even open yet, so I sat in an area near the international check-in and plugged in my computer while working on the photos from Friday. I can’t get onto the Internet, so Becca will have to wait to hear from me until Korea. When the desk opened at 7:00, I checked in – my flights were listed. Yay! After the United fiasco, I was worried. I was happy to drop off my two bags – I even added some extra weight to them – and I’ll see them again in Salt Lake in two days. I have 21 hours of flying altogether and another 17 hours of layover time. It will be a long two days.

Balloons hydrant

A fire hydrant as helium tank for filling balloons. These murals were made in the Jakarta airport in order to dress up the mundane fire hydrants placed along the concourse of Terminal 3.

I don’t know if I will ever return to Indonesia. It will be dark when I take off tonight, so I won’t see anything. Those rice fields were my last view. I will miss this place, but it is definitely time to go home. Over the next few posts, I’ll try to summarize and synthesize what I’ve learned from this experience. I hope I have the chance to come back here, and bring my wife and children with me. But coming here at all was the slimmest of crazy chances, and there are other places I’ve never been that I want to see first. I think of what was new and exciting when I landed four weeks ago, and how I’ve grown accustomed to many things. I hardly notice mosques or hijabs any more, until I didn’t see them in Bali. I’m very glad I had the chance to extend and see more of Indonesian culture, because what I’ve seen and done in Jogja and Bali will enrich my life and my teaching forever. There is still much to learn here, and much to experience.

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Bali Day 1: Saturday, August 5, 2017

Prambanan from air

Prambanan temple complex as seen from the air on my flight to Bali from Yogyakarta.

My flight to Bali was fairly early, so I arranged for a taxi to pick me up at the Hotel Jambuluwuk at 6:15, giving me just enough time to eat breakfast. There wasn’t any of the excellent bread pudding this time, and I didn’t really eat much, but it was enough to tide me over. I checked out of the hotel and had to pay $25 for the Stroberi Fanta I had spilled on the carpet. I must have knocked it over in the middle of the previous night, and the lid wasn’t on as securely as it should have been. Their efforts to clean it had only been partly successful, and they would have to bring in some professionals to clean the spot. Mine wasn’t the only spot on the carpet, but it was the most obvious.

Ratu Boko from air

The hilltop palace of Ratu Boko, which I had visited the night before, as seen from my airplane on my flight to Bali.

The taxi drove me to the airport and I unloaded my bags and found a baggage cart to help me carry them inside. This airport is small and crowded and it took a few minutes to make it to the Garuda Indonesia counter, where my two checked bags were 11 kg overweight, total. I had to pay about $30 for the extra baggage fees, then worked my way through security. It was divided into three lines, but still took some time. I was glad I had given myself some extra time.

Jambuluwuk patio breakfast

My breakfast on the patio of the Jambuluwuk Hotel on my last morning in Yogyakarta.

I waited in the main lounge and wrote entries for these blogs on my computer. I almost failed to hear the final boarding call for my flight, and hurried to hand my boarding pass to the gate attendant and walked out onto the tarmac. My flight was a small jet and I was the second to the last person to board. I was located on the right side by a window with a good view.

Other temple from air

Prambanan isn’t the only temple complex in the area. This set of temples, called Candi Sewu, is a bit further northeast, as seen from my airplane window.

We taxied a short distance and turned around to face into the wind and revved up for take-off. We bounded off the tarmac and were airborne. I knew from seeing jets flying over Prambanan and Ratu Boko yesterday that I might be able to see both from this side of the airplane, so I watched carefully. I could see the Ratu Boko hilltop, and then we passed just to the left of Prambanan, so I had an excellent view out my window and took some photos. I also saw other temple complexes in the area; Prambanan is not alone. One temple that I saw below me is called the Candi Sewu.

Smoking volcanoes

We took off to the northeast and once we passed the line of volcanoes that form the spine of Java, we turned east-southeast and flew to the north of more volcanoes, a perfect view from my right side window.

But I have to admit some jealousy to the people on the left side of the plane, who got excellent views of Mt. Merapi as we passed by. We crossed the line of volcanoes that form the spine of Java, then turned east. I could see rice fields and roads below showing patterns of settlement; the houses and businesses lined the roads, then as smaller side roads were paved, the businesses and houses followed, with rice paddies just beyond. As we gained altitude, volcanoes showed their heads above the scattered clouds. Now I wasn’t jealous anymore, because I could now see each volcano clearly out my window as we passed it.

Mt. Bromo caldera

I had an amazing view of the Gunung Bromo caldera with its smoking fumerole in the center. This would have produced more ash and dust than several Tambora-class explosions combined. The composite volcano cone in the background is Gunung Semeru .

The mountains form a chain, some giving off puffs of smoke. We approached a larger volcano than the others, lying behind a large circular caldera with a central column of smoke. This must be Gunung Bromo. I took several good photos of it as we passed.

We then came to the eastern coast of Java. Beaches and headlands stretched below. In the center of one island there was a narrow strait bisecting the island. I could see pulses of waves entering the strait and traveling along it, emerging out the other side of the island. It would be quite a view to be down there overlooking the thin passage.

Bromo Caldera and Semeru

This is the same view as my flight from Google Earth, only without clouds. The caldera is rather squarish, with a no-man’s land of fumeroles and barren plains surrounding the active vents. Mt. Semeru in the background.

Fluffy white cumulus clouds gathered as we crossed the strait between Java and Bali. I saw a small jet below us turning before the banks of clouds as it started its approach into Denpasar Airport. We turned and followed it in. I took some videos of the amazing clouds as we dropped toward the island.

Java coastline

The southeastern coastline of Java as we crossed to Bali. This area is a Taman Nasional (national park).

On our approach to the airport I could see the beaches and resorts here on the southeastern flank of the island. Inland, there was a large structure under construction; I learned later that it was a huge statue of Buddha, which will be the largest statue in the world when it is done. If it is ever done. They’ve been building it for twenty years, and there’s been a great deal of cost overruns and possibly some corruption along the way. Supposedly that has all been smoothed over and the statue is scheduled to be completed next year.

Coastal islands slit

The thin strait through the center of the island to the left was interesting – the waves coming from the south (top in this photo) traveled slowly through the strait. It would be fun to be down there and see it – no doubt very beautiful. There are so many places in this world to explore!

The plane landed smoothly and we taxied to the main terminal. We climbed down the small stairway built into the plane and walked across the tarmac to the building, passing through an ornate gateway colored orange and white. A sign said, “Welcome to the last paradise on Earth.” I hoped it was right.

Clouds over Bali

We flew through some incredibly fluffy cumulus, following another plane down to the airport at Denpasar on Bali.

In the main terminal I found a baggage cart (wheels are a wonderful thing) and claimed my bags at the luggage carousel. Everything went smoothly, and I walked outside to look for a taxi to take me to Ubud.

Bali airport

After landing at Denpasar, we taxied to the terminal and climbed down the stairs to walk into the main building. This airport is more modern than the one in Yogyakarta and serves as an international hub.

I negotiated a bit with the driver, who said it would take two hours to get there because the traffic is bad. I settled for 400,000 rupiah as the fee, or about $30 US. Maybe going on the meter would have been better, or maybe not, because he was right about the two hours. This is about what I would pay for a shuttle from Salt Lake to Orem, where I live, so even though high by Bali standards, I was OK with it. As it turned out, the driver earned every rupiah.

We drove out of the airport and headed north on one of the roads to Ubud, which is a cultural center further north from the busy, touristy southern beaches around Kuta and Denpasar. Although laying on a tropical beach sounds great, I didn’t come all this way to lay around. I wanted to learn about Bali, and Ubud sounded like the best headquarters from which to do that. I had found an inexpensive bungalow for only $26 per night, with excellent reviews.

Gate to paradise

We walked through this traditional Balinese gate to reach the terminal. It represents the path through the sacred mountain. Architecture is quite different here than on Java or Borneo.

The traffic up this road was slow. I found out later that there are wider and better roads, but this one was the most direct. As we crawled along, I dozed a bit, but eventually started paying more attention once we got out of the city proper. There were many small businesses along the road, many of them in this area carving stone statutes of Buddhas in various poses. I saw shrines clothed with gold or black and white checkered cloth. There seemed to be lots of small temples, and everything was covered in green moss, grasses, and lichens. There were also places carving large cross-sections of trees into wood sculptures, some making elaborate tables, others carvings of Hindu gods and goddesses.

Last Paradise

This sign welcomed us to the paradise of Bali. It may be a bit of an overstatement (there are still other paradises) but it was still nice to see that I had arrived.

The traffic was unrelenting until we finally took some narrow side roads. The driver was getting frustrated, as this was taking longer than he thought and he was missing out on other fares. There wasn’t anything I could do about it; apparently, tourism has reached Ubud because of the book and movie Eat, Pray, Love about a journalist that found love here. Julia Roberts starred in the movie. It sounds like a chick flick to me, but maybe I’ll have to watch it just to see the places I will recognize. Now everyone comes here. And I thought I was being smart about staying away from the party scene in Kuta.

Wooden faces

After getting my luggage at the baggage claim, I found a cart and wheeled everything outside, where I negotiated with a taxi to drive me to Ubud, about 40 miles away in the interior of Bali. I didn’t want to get stuck in the touristy parts of Kuta and Denpasar, as I was here to learn about history and culture, not hang out on the beaches. On the way to Ubud the traffic was slow and it took close to two hours to reach Ubud and find my bungalow. On the way, we passed many shops such as this one carving Hindu sculptures, or statues from volcanic ash, or many other types of souvenirs.

It turns out that Ubud isn’t just one compact town but is more of an area of interconnected villages with a network of winding roads that are little better than paths. It reminded me of Kota Gede. After some wandering around through hills and rice paddies and along narrow roads, we came to what appeared to be the main part of town, at least according to the many foreign tourists and motorcycle renters. We found the entrance to the lane my bungalow is on: Jalan Kajeng. It was barely wide enough for one car, but we squeezed in and traveled along it. My printout of the Ubud Wins Bungalow did not give a house number, so we kept driving up the alleyway. The driver finally stopped and asked someone, at the only place in the road wide enough to stop. The person said to keep going; the bungalow was at the end of the lane. We finally found a small sign on a wall just before the road took a sharp left turn.

Large statue at roundabout

Large statue inside a round about on the road leading north out of Denpasar.

The owner’s wife and son saw my taxi arrive and came down to take my larger bags. I paid my driver a good tip, and that brightened his expression. The Ubud Wins Bungalows are built on the side of a steep hill with tall stairs made of green-covered concrete leading up about 30 feet around a family shrine and a papaya tree, then over and down to my corner room. Just carrying my carry-on bags was very difficult up the slippery stairs. I don’t know how her son managed my large red bag.

Buddha statues

A workshop specializing in stone carvings of the Buddha. Most Balinese are Hindu or Buddhist, with Islam being a minority religion here.

My room had a porch in front with couch and chairs, then a large glass door and window into a big room with a bed and dresser and tiled floor. I brought in my bags and tried to figure out the air conditioner (I finally got it working later that night). I was tired and lay down to get some rest before venturing out to explore Ubud.

Reclining Buddha

More stone statues of the Buddha at a workshop on the road to Ubud, Bali.

I was in paradise, the legendary Bali of song and story. It just didn’t feel quite like it yet!

Rice farmer on bicycle

A rice farmer on a bicycle passes a family compound flying the red and white Indonesian flag. His conical hat is the traditional hat of rice farmers in Bali. I have to get me one of those!

Family shrine

A household shrine. Notice that shrines are wrapped in cloth. The gold represents prosperity, the white and black checked cloth represents wisdom and that there are good and bad aspects in all things.

Balinese side road

There were narrow side roads leading away which invited me to explore. I already knew that two days wouldn’t be nearly enough time here.

Bali paradise

The sign said that we were visiting paradise, and everything was green. Even the rocks and cement were growing green lichens on them.

Gate to household

A traditional gateway leading to a family compound in Bali.

Stairway to heaven

Arriving in Ubud, we passed this stairway leading up through a gateway that represents the path through the sacred mountain. The man is wearing traditional Balinese clothes: a white shirt, a sarong (wraparound skirt), and a turban style cap.

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