Here I am...
9th Mar 2012 - 22nd Mar 2012
Here I am... all over the place
Before we even start with what I’ve been up to, there’s a subject that has come up again and again in the last couple of weeks, so I have to tell you about it and before you ask, no it’s not about the amount of people who come up to get a photo of me and whilst I know it’s not a competition, if it was, Indonesia would definitely win. I have no idea why they do it, seeing a Caucasian isn’t that much of a novelty but for some reason there seems to be a need to scream.
We started noticing straight away in Indonesia that most people smoke, in fact 65% of men do it but only 5% of women. There’s no age restriction which means three year olds can and do walk into shops and buy cigarettes for themselves which is also why you can type in ‘2 year old smoking’ into you tube and watch an Indonesian boy smoking 40 a day like he’s done it for 20 years. This isn’t a rare case and the parents will always say it’s absolutely fine and they give it to their kids because it’s, and I quote ‘nice like chocolate’. Smoking is the biggest killer in Indonesia and also the most heavily advertised product. It seems backwards and in the interest of not killing off too many jobs in the cigarette industry too quickly, you might think they’d start slowing down the advertising a little and starting to make people more aware of the risks (although I doubt anyone needs educating on it as statically every Indonesian has a relative that has died due to smoking). Unfortunately, the reason all this carries on is because the government get lots of money from taxes on cigarettes. Anyway back to the story…..
Our bus and ferry to Java, one of the largest islands making up Indonesia, dropped us off at a town called Probolinggo at 1am where we would be able to get to Mt. Bromo. The worst part about that ride was that I left my bracelet on there which was given to me by a monk in Chiang Mai, probably the most devastating part our trip so far. Mt. Bromo is one of the most active volcanoes in the world erupting only a year ago. When we got there the landscape was so surreal, like from a movie set or something. Everything was dead, the ground was black, made up of ash and hardened lava. Canyons have been created where the lava once burned through. We saw the ash covered lava in the centre of the crater and the sides crumbling away due to the heat. It was definitely one of the natural highlights of the trip and so much more impressive than I thought it'd be.
The rest of the day was taken up getting to Jogjakarta where we met our friend Asuka who we'd previously seen in Japan. She studied Indonesian and so was here for a few weeks to see friends and do a course. We only came to see Borobudur, the largest Buddhist temple in the world but ended up staying in 'Jogja' for a week hanging out with Asuka and her friends. In fact we had two weeks left in Java and ended up seeing another couple of towns called Semarang and Bandung on the way to Jakarta. It was an extremely strange time because we are always on the lookout for interesting things to see and do wherever we go and Micci had wanted to get off the beaten track again but even when we asked the locals at each place, no one seemed to have any really striking suggestions and indeed by the time we got to Jakarta, other than Mt. Bromo and Borobudur, both of which we'd planned to see long before arriving in Indonesia, we didn't see or do anything that could be worth recommending to another traveller. Now Indonesia should definitely be on everyone's list of places to go, I just wouldn't give west Java that much time, least of all Jakarta, every local or tourist we met only had bad things to say about Jakarta. Everyone agreed there is nothing for tourists to do.
Having said all this, that doesn't mean we didn't have some wizard experiences, it's just none of them are really a tourist attraction. From the day we entered Java to the day we left the country, we hung out with locals and with the exception of Jogja, we couch surfed every night. Now for those of you who have missed what couch surfing is, it's an internet based organisation where travellers can find people who live in an area you are going to and stay with them for free, it only really works if you are going to spend time with your host, using it as a way to save money won't really work. Similarly, if you aren't a traveller but would like to meet new people, you can have a profile for people to find you and you can host them at your house.
In Jogja, Micci and I formed some really close relationships with Asuka's friends. They took us to Mt. Merapi, a volcano even more active than Mt. Bromo but this meant you weren’t allowed to go that close to it, so little pay out for a tourist. They also took us tubing, similar to what we did in Laos but through a cave, down rapids and past waterfalls instead of getting drunk and stuck on 10cm deep water.
The most eventful part of that day was when we were driving back and found a man on the side of the road with a smashed up bike and bleeding from his head. He was barely conscious and not moving. We put him in our car and took him to the hospital. Half way there he found the energy to tell us he didn't want to go to the hospital because the police would take his bike away for driving without a helmet whilst under the influence of alcohol. We took him anyway.
The best part about hanging out with the local people is that you notice loads of different things you wouldn’t have otherwise. One thing we found out about in Jogja was that if you eat at a traditional Indonesian restaurant, they only sell savoury or sweet food, if you have a main meal and want a dessert, you will have to go to another restaurant. Why? I don’t know. I think the highlight of our time in Jogja had to be the lady-boy cabaret show, Asuka and all her friends were going anyway which was great for us because with such a packed schedule in Bangkok, we'd managed to miss it there. The whole thing was so funny and so light hearted. You could split the men/women into 3 very distinct categories - beautiful, scary and atrocious. You can judge for yourselves which is which when you look at the pictures.
Our next stop was Semarang where, through couch surfing, we stayed with a girl called Swastika. She's definitely the most trusting person we've met. She left the door unlocked for us, we were in the house alone for most of the time. The only reason we went to Semarang was because a few people had said there were some great islands for snorkelling off that coast however all the boats had been cancelled for a week due to the weather so that rendered our entire existence there pointless. We wandered around and took a look at the Dutch influence of the old town but after a day it was clearly time to leave.
Bandung was the next stop after an extremely comfortable over night train and similarly bare to Semarang in terms of obvious things to do. Luckily we had another host but this time both Alex and his girlfriend Bella had all the time in the world to hang out. We tried a couple of excursions out of town to see some waterfalls and things but it seems everywhere around these parts, even though they may seem to draw no tourists have a completely different and completely astronomical tourist price, it cost five times as much for me to go and see this waterfall than a local and Micci passes for any SE Asian so she gets the local price. Indonesia has a lot of waterfalls and volcanoes to offer but it seems once you’ve seen the most famous one, you’ve seen them all and you know it to be the case when your pictures of the ones you‘ve been to are better than the official pictures of the next one the tourist agents are trying to get you to go to. This meant that most of our time in Bandung was watching movies and eating junk food, I had no problem with this whatsoever due to the fact that this was one of my most favourite things ever back home. There’s an awesome doughnut shop in Indonesia called J.CO which absolutely batters the likes of Krispy Kremes and Dunkin Donuts. I cannot believe it’s not all over the world. Anyway, I loved them so much I decided to buy all 24 different flavours which became our diet for the next couple of days and the IT crowd became the stimulus apart from a Thai film about a boy who became a millionaire from inventing a seaweed flavour snack which was basically ‘The Social Network’s pathetic, more bring and tedious little cousin.
It’s true, we have started loosening the purse strings a little, you can tell by our spending habits we’re coming towards the end of our journey (for now). We tend to spend more now and relax a bit with bartering although I think that the cheapest places or ways of getting things are hard wired now, we seem be able to spend little now without being conscious about money. I tried to buy some new shoes in Jogja actually but their largest size is an 8 so no luck. Oh yeah and when you buy something small and your change is even smaller, sometimes they give you chocolate because they don’t have a coin small enough. Couch surfing is obviously one of the most successful ways we’ve saved money although if you use the system properly like us then hanging out and doing things with your hosts, as well as back and forth to their house can add up. One of the best ways of saving money whilst travelling is buying a local sim card, 30 pence credit lasts 2 weeks easy, it’s unbelievable but we noticed that everyone is always texting all of the time, for no reason mostly which means everything takes ages to arrange, there seems to be no end to every conversation. Someone would text me saying ‘we are coming now, where are you?’ in a nice way, to threatening, and I’d reply ‘ok, come to the espresso café now, we are here and ready’ and then I’d get another text saying ‘so do you want us to come to the espresso café?’. and you know it’ nothing to do with understanding the text because they’ve used all the same words I have.
This translates in real life too, simple questions I might ask take forever for people to answer, we were hanging out with two girls, I asked one of them what’s your favourite place in Java, she turned to her friend to confer (don‘t know why, it‘s impossible that her friend could add to her own opinion) but they took 10 minutes, discussing then laughing then texting until it turned back to silence and they forgot that I’d asked a question at all. I still don’t know where her favourite place is.
Having never done it before, we decided to try to hitchhike to Jakarta from Bandung. Alex showed us a good spot and unbelievably we got someone within a minute. The new video blog on the link below tells you all about it so I won’t go into loads of detail. Enough to say that, it was an awesome road trip, awesome scenery, conversation and the nicest driver who bought us food all day and spent half an hour in Jakarta trying find the place we were staying, just amazing.
That was the second to last day in Indonesia and one of the best, the last day was definitely the worst. We started out by waking up at our new host’s place which turned out to be right on the other side of the city to the airport with no easy transport to get there. We ended up getting a taxi to the centre to begin with however he tried to pull a fast one by going outside the city, through 3 toll gates and back in again. He tried to charge us three times the price it should’ve cost which is why I refused to pay, he argued for about 20 seconds but knew he’d been caught out. Micci felt a little guilty that we gave him nothing but I reassured her, he ripped so many people off, he has to lose sometimes. Anyway, then we tried to figure out how to get out of the centre again and to the airport, it turns out all of Jakarta’s residence have never been on a plane because none of them could tell us how to get there. In the end, a bus conductor talked us through how to get there with 4 buses, after three buses, we got to the end of the line where touts tried to get us into a taxi and after asking everyone, we found that it was the only option as we were now in the middle of nowhere. He wouldn’t put a meter on so all we could do is barter with him but after such a tiring day, Micci didn’t want to spend that much time doing it so we agreed on a half decent price off a bit with. Interestingly enough, if the first taxi driver hadn’t given me reason not to pay him, we wouldn’t have had enough to get to the airport. But hey ho, new country now.
NEW VIDEO BLOG TEASER AVAILABLE ON HERE AND FULL VERSION ON WWW.YOUTUBE.COM/HEREIAMBLOGTV, KEEP CHECKING FOR MORE VIDEO BLOGS IN THE FUTURE.
Here I am... hitchhiking
|2529 Words | This page has been read 52 times||View Printable Version|