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Bali Day 1: Saturday, August 5, 2017

Stairs and papaya tree

The Ubud Wins Bungalows at the end of Kajeng Lane. This is a papaya tree growing in the courtyard. My bungalow overlooked the street and was above and to the right of this photo.

It was around noon that I arrived at my bungalow in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia. I tried lying down for a bit to rest but had some trouble getting the air conditioner to work, which ran off of a remote control that wasn’t very intuitive. Not wanting to waste the day, and getting hungrier by the minute, I decided to walk into the main part of town and explore.

Temple out the window

The community temple across the street from my bungalow on Kajeng Lane.

Right across from my bungalow is a community temple with an inner courtyard for meetings and small statues lining the roof. The humidity and frequent rains have left the gray volcanic stone covered in lichens and green moss, with just a bit of color where gold or red paint has been applied or cloth tied around the statues of the gods. Everything here is green. I walked along Kajeng Lane with its interesting inscriptions in the cement panels. There were Balinese doorways leading into the courtyards of houses, and another larger community temple. A few shops lined the road, a touring company selling local tours and taxis to Denpasar, a restaurant or two, and a place selling souvenirs made by disabled people. After a 15 minute walk I arrived at the main street in Ubud.

Kajeng Lane

Walking up Kajeng Lane from the Ubud Wins Bungalows, about 15 minute walk to the main street of Ubud.

This street was packed with cars and motorcycles driven by tourists. I had been hoping for a quiet getaway for two days while I explored the arts and crafts here, but this is a busy town. I suppose it has changed because of the Julia Roberts movie, “Eat, Pray, Love” which takes place here. Now lots of people have “discovered” Ubud and turned it into another Kuta. People in the know say the place for peace and quiet is now Lombok. At least my bungalow is out of the way and not on the main road. To make the congestion worse, a funeral procession passed by with a group of men in traditional Balinese clothing carrying an urn and memorial to the deceased on a series of bamboo poles on their shoulders.

Ganesha through gateway

A Ganesha statue with morning offerings inside a family courtyard in Ubud.

I walked right at random and found a promising place selling gelato. I got a cup with coconut and lime flavors, and it was delicious. I sat on a bench outside a restaurant to eat it, and talked with a lady and her husband from Australia who were here for ten days. I asked where a good place for lunch was, and she gestured to the restaurant behind us and said she had eaten an excellent tuna sandwich. I decided to try it out. Probably more expensive than some places, but the tuna sandwich was good. Instead of the usual tuna salad I’m used to, it was actually a grilled tuna steak. I also some pineapple juice. The best part was that it was just in front of the Saraswati Temple that I was looking for. My research into Ubud said the temple was a good place to visit and was behind the Starbucks, which I found was next door to the gelato place and I had missed it in the pleasure of eating the gelato.

David at Saraswati Temple Ubud

David Black at the Saraswati Temple in Ubud. I’m not sure what the lady on the stairs is doing. This temple is behind the Starbucks and is reached by a walkway through lilly ponds.

After the meal, I walked back to the temple and took photos. Two German ladies took my photo while I took theirs. So far, I haven’t met any Americans. The temple pathway lies between two lily ponds. I needed to wear a sarong to go inside the temple proper, so I walked further down the main street and found a beautiful blue-aqua sarong with gold highlights in a shop, again a bit more than I might have paid, but worth it. By the time I got back to the Saraswati Temple, it was closed. Oh well, I can use the sarong tomorrow for my trip to the Besakih Temple and it will be a nice gift for my wife.

Gate to Saraswati Temple

Gateway into the inner courtyard of the Saraswati Temple in Ubud. I wasn’t able to go inside because I didn’t have a sarong, so I went to find one and found a nice aqua sarong with gold accents. By the time I returned, the temple was closed.

I walked the other direction from Kajeng Lane and passed a large temple complex under construction, then a smaller community temple where people were gathering. I went inside and saw a group of young girls practicing a dance with metal plates (probably will be porcelain in the final performance). They are getting ready for Independence Day. I videotaped parts, because it was beautifully done.

Girls practicing dance

Girls practicing a traditional Balinese dance in the courtyard of a neighborhood temple.

I crossed the main street and followed the flow of tourists into a shopping alley that paralleled the Monkey Temple road. Like Malioboro Street in Yogyakarta, this alleyway is lined with shops selling all sorts of tourist wares, everything from thumb organs to wooden male – uh – organs. Not sure what the appeal is there, but there were quite a few different styles available. I feel an obscure Star Trek reference coming on, about “maharong” and a wooden fertility figure. Win the prize (my appreciation) by telling me which of the 700+ episodes it is. The thumb organs were very nice, and I almost bought one but I am already out of room in my luggage.

Girls at end of dance

Girls at the end of their dance practice. Indonesian Independence Day was coming up in two weeks, and many groups were practicing in the local temples, which act as community centers.

But as I walked to the end of the alley I found a place selling rattan rice farmers’ hats. I looked at them, and the shop owner asked if I wanted to buy one. I said he probably didn’t have one in my size, but lo and behold he did. So I bought it. This will be the final Indonesian hat for my collection. He put it into a large plastic bag, and I figure I can tie it onto the outside of my TGC carry-on bag on the way home. At least I hope so.

Ubud traffic

Traffic and pedestrians mixing on the main street of Ubud. This was supposedly a quiet artist center, but the book and movie “Eat, Pray, Love” was based in Ubud and has turned it into a tourist destination. Traffic can be snarled, with all the tourists riding mopeds, especially when school gets out.

I walked back through a side alley to Monkey Temple Road, then back to the main drag. By this time I was tired and footsore, so I walked across the street and back to my bungalow for a nap. The humidity here is very high and it saps the energy right out of someone. I wanted to have enough left to go out at sunset.

Market lane and tourists

A lane to the east of Monkey Lane Road is a kind of open air market, similar to Malioboro Street in Yogyakarta but not as long or busy. I took a walk along it and found a rice farmer’s hat to buy.

Captain America puppets

Wooden puppets for sale on the market lane in Ubud. I like the Captain Americas. There were other interesting wooden items for sale as well, such as thumb pianos.

Durian and bananas

Yep. More durian fruit. I smelled it before I saw it. Notice the stubby bananas which are common here in Indonesia. If I hadn’t been repulsed by the durian, I would have bought some mangos even though they aren’t in season yet.

Checkered guardians

Guardians of the temple, wearing the checkered cloth that denotes wisdom. They also have parasols to ward off the sun and rain.

Stairs to pathway

A pathway to explore along Kajeng Lane. It’s hard to explain the feeling of Bali – it rains almost every day, and everything, even the stones and concrete, are covered in green lichen. Even newly built houses have the feel of ancient ruins because of the vivid jungle growth. Notice the yellow frangipani blossoms that have dropped from the trees above.

Balinese house gate 2

A gate into a household compound along Kajeng Lane.

Household gate

Gate into the inner courtyard of the Saraswati Temple in Ubud.

Statue at stairtop

All of the statues are covered with clothing, and small woven baskets with fruit and frangipani flowers are left each morning. This statue was at the top of stairways leading down into a deep canyon running through Ubud. One of the gelato shops I ate at is to the right.

Down stairs in Ubud

A stairway led down from the Ubud main street to this canyon running through the town. It gives you a feel for the depth of the terrain here.

Green lane

A view of Kajeng Lane in Ubud. The blocks of concrete have been signed by businesses and people as a promotional program when this lane was paved.

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Yogyakarta Day 1: Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Approaching Yogya

Approaching Yogyakarta on my flight from Jakarta: August 2, 2017

I’m sitting at Gate 16 in Terminal 3 of the Jakarta airport awaiting Garuda Flight 204 to Yogykarta, or Jogja, as people call it. I’ve been right here before, about 12 days ago, when I flew to Banjarmasin with Craig Hendrick.

Steaming cone

An active volcano in central Java, one of 125 in Indonesia that are part of the Ring of Fire.

I set my alarm for 4:30 this morning, got up and showered, got dressed and finished packing. I decided to leave my black shoes behind, as they are pretty much worn out and I haven’t really been wearing them much on this trip anyway. I spent last evening repacking, putting everything I wouldn’t need over the next five days (including all of the gifts I’ve bought) into my blue IHC bag and TGC bag and keeping my clean clothes and toiletries in the red bag. My intent is to find a storage locker at the airport, as my research says there are, and only taking my camera bag, computer bag, and red bag to Jogja.

Merapi and neighbor

Gunung Merapi (on right) and Gunung Merbabu from the air on my flight to Yogyakarta from Jakarta. Merapi last erupted in 2010, killing over 300 people.

But it didn’t work out that way. I met Nikki Moylan downstairs at 5:30, as we have arranged to share a cab to the airport. We checked out of our rooms, then ate a quick breakfast accompanied by Jennifer. The cab was waiting for us and we had a quick, non-traffic ride to the airport. I was dropped off first at Terminal 3 and got a luggage cart, went through the first security checkpoint, and checked in at the Garuda Economy Class counter. When I asked the agent where the storage lockers were, she told me that they don’t have them in this new terminal, only the old terminals. So much for research. So I had to bring all my bags with me after all and pay at the overweight baggage counter. Again.

Merapi volcanoes

Volcanoes near Yogykarta. In the foreground are Gunung Merapi (bottom left) and Gunung Merbabu. Beyond are Gunung Sumbing and Gunung Sindoro. Yogykarta lies off the image to the left, and Borobudur is in the valley between the two sets of volcanoes. This image was created using data from the USGS Earth Explorer website.

I waited at the same gate (16) that Craig and I waited at on our flight to Banjarmasin. I was writing up this post and was so intent on it that I almost missed the final boarding announcement, so I had to jump up and run through the boarding pass checkpoint at the gate. Once on the airplane I settled back and tried to find something to watch on my hour flight to Jogja.

Merapi and Merbabu

Mt. Merapi and Mt. Merbabu from GoogleEarth.

We took off over rice fields and turned toward the mountains that form the central spine of Java. As we flew along this ridge, the peaks of the volcanoes poked up through the cloud layer. Some had smoke plumes rising from their summits. There are about 125 active volcanoes in Indonesia as part of the Ring of Fire around the rim of the Pacific Ocean. The Philippines Plate is pushing into the Indo-Australian Plate, creating a subduction zone noted for its explosive volcanoes, severe earthquakes, and deadly tsunami. It is an Earth Science teacher’s dream come true to get to see this.

Central Java from air

Central Java from the air

I decided to listen to music from the selection on the in-flight screen, and started listening to the Best of Bad Company album, which rocked me all the way in to Yogyakarta. As we approached and lowed ourselves toward the city, green rice fields, streams, and trees became more obvious with beautiful clouds above and mountain peaks rearing their smoky black crowns.

Over Yogya

Approaching Yogyakarta.

We landed and I deplaned and walked across the tarmac to the Yogyakarta airport terminal, which is quite small for the number of flights it handles. It was crowded inside. I found a luggage cart and waited by the carousel until my bags came through, right after each other. There was a desk to arrange taxis into the city, so I asked them to help and a porter wheeled my bags through the crowds, through an underground walkway, to the curb where he hailed a taxi for me. We loaded up my bags and he drove me into the city to my hotel.

I am staying at the Hotel Jambuluwuk Malioboro, chosen because it has good ratings and is within walking distance (20 minutes or so) of the main shopping center, Malioboro Street. Outside the hotel is a large billboard advertising cigarettes with the required government anti-cigarette campaign on the bottom, which certainly sent mixed messages. But at least the billboard provided a good landmark to find my hotel with.

Yogya airport

The airport in Yogyakarta. It could use an expansion, because it is too small for the number of people traveling through it.

Jambuluwuk lobby

The lobby of the Hotel Jambuluwuk Malioboro, where I stayed for three nights.

I checked in and found my room on the top floor. It is a nice room with a small bathroom but nicely appointed. The carpets are a bit worn, but otherwise nice. I dropped off my bags and unpacked a few items. It requires a keycard in the slot like other hotels here to activate the lights and air conditioning, and I worked out the controls and got the room cooled down. Since it was barely noon and I was hungry, I ventured out to find at least a snack. I asked at the desk how to get to Malioboro Street – they said to go left, then left again at the first intersection and walk along that street until I crossed a river, then beyond to Malioboro. I didn’t take the first left and soon found a Alpha Mart store, where I got some Pulpy juice, a Happy Cow, and some other snacks to tide me over until I could find supper.

Yogya from hotel room

Yogyakarta from my hotel room. I had a good view of the city and could hear muezzins from several mosques at once.

It seems strange to be entirely on my own now, after having been driven and pampered for three weeks. Even with a map of the city from the front desk, I am likely to get lost. But the day was still young and I felt like exploring, so I backtracked, took the correct turn, and continued on until I crossed the river. Noon prayers were being called, so I paused and recorded some video and audio. There weren’t really any good sidewalks to cross the bridge, so I had to dodge around stalls selling red and white bunting that were in the way.

Yogya near river

Crossing a bridge from my hotel to Malioboro Street.

I stopped at a store selling batik and looked at the wares, but didn’t really like anything. I continued on another two blocks and came to Malioboro Street at last – obviously so because of the many shops, horse drawn carriages, becak drivers (pedicabs), and tourists thronging the street. I am not much of a shopper, but decided to try to get everything I needed here if possible in one afternoon and evening.

Ice Durian fruit

A stand selling iced durian fruit. The “ES” is pronounced “ice.” The smell will knock you over . . .

I smelled something unpleasant and discovered I was standing next to a cart selling durian fruit drinks. You can smell it just walking past. As I took a photo of it, a man approached me and asked if I was interested in batik. He said he knew of a place a few blocks further on that was having a batik art exposition and that this was the last day. I was interested; all the batik I saw here was simply printed, not hand drawn, and I wanted to buy some of the real thing. As we were talking, I spotted an unusual hat make of leather dyed many colors – tan, aqua, pink, and black. It actually fitted, so I had to buy it. It was about $8 U.S., or 100,000 rupiah. I put it on and wore it to keep off the hot sun. The man drew me a map, and said it was easy to find.

Atmosfear footwear

I passed this store on my way to Malioboro Street. I rather doubt this brand would catch on in America. I can’t imagine why . . .

As I walked across Malioboro Street and on down the road, a lady approached me and asked where I was going. When I told her I was going to the batik exposition, she said she lived near there and would show me the way. I was getting a bit suspicious of all this unsolicited help, but walked with her anyway. It wasn’t as if she were taking me into some small alley. I realize now that this batik workshop hires people to act as collectors of tourists, funneling them into the store to drum up more business. Pretty smart tactic, and since I wanted to see real batik anyway, it was good for me too. And there was no indication that this was the last day – it seemed to be an ongoing thing.

Little boys on bridge

Young boys in traditional clothing crossing the bridge to Malioboro Street.

I found the workshop and went inside. Since there wasn’t any big sign, it was a good thing they had these agents out scouring the streets for potential customers.

Bridge to Malioboro

Crossing the bridge from the Jambuluk Hotel to Malioboro Street. The air in Yogyakarta was much clearer than Jakarta.

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Jakarta Day 3: Monday, July 17, 2017

Leko restaurant

The restaurant we ate at in the Grand Mall.

In the evening on my third day in Jakarta, Indonesia, we traveled back to the Grand Mall of Jakarta to eat supper at an Indonesian restaurant called Léko. Dewi, our in-country representative, knew the owners (a former student of hers, I believe) and ordered a variety of Indonesian dishes and drinks for us to try. They ranged from savory beef ribs to extremely spicy chicken with a hot sambal sauce. One of my favorites was a grilled fish – it wasn’t too spicy and was very tasty, especially the skin.

Waiting for bus by hotel

Our group, waiting for the bus outside the hotel.

I asked Dewi if the durian fruit smoothie was good and she said I had to try it, as did two other teachers sitting with me. Durian is considered the “king of fruits” in southeast Asia, and grows up to 30 cm long and can weigh up to 3 kg. Its name derives from the spiky protuberances that grow on the husk.

Durian_in_black

Inside the durian fruit

What I didn’t know is that people have differing reactions to the smell and taste of the fruit. Some people find it has a pleasant aroma. Others find that it smells of rotten onions, body odor, or other worse things. It is known to attract flies. It is banned from some hotels and businesses. I tried it and found it interesting at first, then it got stronger and more unpleasant the further down I sipped. It tasted to me like three-week old unwashed repeatedly used gym socks. Not that I’ve ever tasted gym socks, but you know what I mean.

I tried another teacher’s cendol, which was OK – kind of a sweet green been mixed with coconut milk. The lychee smoothie (sometimes spelled litchie or lici in Bahasa Indonesia) was good but sweet. But I couldn’t finish the durian fruit smoothie, and after the meal, the taste lingered; every time I burped or hiccupped, there it was again.

Durian fruit

Es durian, or ice durian. Not something I’m going to try.  It even smells bad just to walk past it. Now, if it was passion fruit slush, I’d be all over it, sketchy ice or not.

I’m not here to eat only American foods and drink American drinks. I’m here to experience Indonesian culture and to learn. An adventure of this sort requires the willingness to try new things, knowing that sometimes the result can be unpleasant. I know I won’t like everything I try. But so far I’ve enjoyed the food and loved the drinks. Now I know I’m one of those people that have a bad reaction to durian fruit. Sometimes knowledge comes at a price.

After dinner we had an hour for shopping. I’m not much of a shopper, unless it’s for souvenirs or gifts, and all the shops I saw here were decidedly Western. Even the posters and mannequins were of Americans or Europeans and the prices expensive. So I watched the people, trying to see if I could understand why this mall was so popular. I noticed that not many Indonesians had bags for purchases – oh, some had smaller items they had bought, but nothing really big or expensive. The downstairs grocery stores selling western food items and the restaurants seemed busy, but there didn’t seem to be as much purchasing as one would see in an American mall.

Group at Leko

The group of us at the Leko restaurant.

So do the Indonesians come here to be seen and hang out? Certainly to an extent – they were dressed much more nicely than most Americans would be at a shopping mall. But to my eyes there was something more than merely hanging out. What could be the purpose of building such a monument to Western styles and products?

 

I asked Dewi and was expecting something profound, something that would give me insight into the Indonesian soul. But I found it was for the same reason many Americans go to a mall: they like to window shop. In other words, they like to see the products and imagine what it would be like to have them; they visualize a future time when they can afford them. They’re just like us in this respect. Although I’ve never understood the attraction of shopping without buying (since I’m of the “I came, I saw, I bought, I left” – mentality – a real Veni, Vidi, Vici type of person), it speaks to my central research question that there is fundamentally no difference between the types of aspirations Indonesians and Americans have, and how the shopping mall is an expression of an ideal of what our lives can be like. The Western dominated media seen around the world has imposed our vision of the good life on Indonesians as well as Americans. I just hope that Indonesia doesn’t lose what is uniquely good about itself in the quest to become like the rest of the world.

Ancient and modern

A western Sumatran style of architecture. Notice the many tangled electric lines. It’s like this throughout the city.

As a final note to the day, I thought about how some societies have built walls to keep others out, be they the Great Wall of China or the border patrols of the United States or the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea or unspoken rules that keep some types of people out of sight. Some walls, such as immigration restrictions and tariffs, are social instead of physical. Some are based on the fear of others and their “foreign ways.” This shopping mall represents the opposite; a kind of homogeneity of styles and cultures. There were many women dressed in western fashions, others wearing hijabs or even full burkhas, but all acting and shopping and laughing just like any crowd in a shopping mall in the United States. We can build walls of fashion or laws or customs and try to hide away from others, or hide others away from us, but we are more alike than not, more similar in beliefs and aspirations than we realize. I do not feel like a stranger or a foreigner here. I may not yet speak the language well, but I am learning and I feel a part of a common humanity in this city half way around the world.

Feed a man a fish

Feed a man a fish, and you feed him for a day.

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