Category Archives: Indonesia

Ijen Smoke

Ijen smoke

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How about a free tattoo with that beer?

(This entry is part of the Coming 2016 side blog)

Yes I’ve heard those places exist: bars where you can get free tattoo’s when you spend enough on Heineken. What a way to support thought through decisions and proper hygiene! My stomach cringes a little when I imagine these venues and the crowds they draw. Seems like Bali is either that, or the glitzy opposite: bony models drinking fancy cocktails in expensive bathing suits, splurging on high end resorts that have swimming pools in walking distance of the ocean. Private beaches and banana boats in the sea. My stomach cringes a little when I imagine that, too. In fact I can’t decide which crowd I hate more.

So back in the days when I thought I had principles and steady willpower, I have sworn I would NOT go to Bali. I would not go to the land of wanna-be yoga teachers, regretful tattoos, cheap alcohol and high school graduates on a “spiritual journey”. I would have skipped it, as not to be confused with one of those “love, eat, pray” fangirls. Is that what it’s called? “Eat, love, pray? Eat, pray, love?” You know what I mean.

I’m not actually a beach person you see. I feel uncomfortable when wading around in a bikini. I feel uncomfortable in the fancy resorts. I find the atmosphere in beach towns inferior to that of the inland – in any country I go. I get sunburned after 10 minutes. But I like to go snorkelling for a day and toddler-like wave at the fishes. I like the idea of doing yoga while watching a sunrise on the beach. Maybe I secretly am a bit of a wanna be teacher. And I do like the idea of rice terraces and lush green hills a lot! So when I found out the weather on Sulawesi wasn’t going to be that good at my time of travelling, and the accommodation on the Gili’s isn’t as much value for money as those on, say, Lembongan… I have let go of my principles and become Bali trash.

I’m going to the island for a couple of days on Lembongan. I guess it might be nice to do a bit of nothing. Maybe take a boat ride through the mangroves. Sign up for some yoga classes. Cycle around, drink too much coconut water, enjoy the occasional dip in the sea.

I’m also going to Bali for Ubud. I guess I’m going to fit in there – with my baggy, cheap clothes and that travel yoga mat I carry around all the time. I guess I’ll like the fact that night life is on a low there and organic tea bars are on the rise. I hate to admit that maybe, it will be a place just for me: a solo female traveller with a love for the spiritual.

Damn.
Should I… like… Should I read that “Love, Pray, Eat” book after all?

Bromo & Ijen

(This entry is part of the Coming 2016 side blog)

Does anyone visit Indonesia and not go to Bromo? It seems like an even greater tourist trap than Borobudur will ever be. However, Google it: it looks really nice.

Also… When I was in Japan a couple years back the monsoon season hit Kansai two days before my trip to Fuji San. Visibility was washed away by endless and endless downpours. Long story short: I’ve never seen a volcano in my life.

Guess what? Bromo is a f***ing volcano! How cool. Bromo is also on the way to Bali – another long, overland journey that I’ll have to make. At first I planned on travelling it myself but recently I’ve decided to just book one of those rushed tours once I get to Malang. Thing is, it’s going to be a long rushed ride, whether I do it on a self-booked night bus or on a touristy pre-arranged tour. The nice thing about the tour is, I can at least make some interesting stops along the way. Short, rushed stops. But stops none the less.

So I’ll be going to Bromo for sunrise – just like everyone else does. I’ll have lunch in these heartless shags where literally every tour bus drops of its hungry crowd. Where the food is bland and the prices steep. I’ll hike around the Ijen crater – just like everyone else does. Be dropped off at the coast. Catch a ferry. Feel worse than after those long haul flights. Thank god I don’t get car-sick easily. I’ll say goodbye to Java and set foot in a land I swore I’d avoid at all costs: Bali.

A crazy plan

(This entry is part of the Coming 2016 side blog)

Sometimes when I read guidebooks and websites my brain goes a bit nuts, and it decides on doing things it can’t afford (remember the infinity pool?) or isn’t actually capable of. Climbing a 3000+ meter volcano at night, as to arrive on the top for sunrise, that’s what I’m talking about. No, I don’t want to do it alone. I want to find a guide. However, I have no idea how to do that and whether it will work out. I’ve never climbed so long and so high. I’m not entirely sure I would make it. And yet, yet I’ve set my mind on Gunung Lawu: an – apparently – not so challenging mountain that rises above gorgeous scenery. But it’s a bit of an adventure.

I’d have to sleep until noon, to be well rested. Leave for a three hour journey to the departure town. Hope to find a guide there. Kill time. Wait until 11pm to start hiking. Hike all night. Arrive at sunset. Be dead: completely exhausted. Feel victorious. Hike back down (I feel tired just imagining it). Find a lift, a taxi, a train back to where I came from. Arrive in the afternoon, wasted. Go to bed and hopefully not regret the last 24 hours.

That’s the positive scenario. The one where I don’t get lost. Don’t get assaulted by some shady guy who said he was an experienced guide but isn’t. Where I don’t break a leg. Where I don’t die of starvation. Where I don’t decide to just fall asleep half way up the slope.

It’s a crazy plan. But I will try to make it happen.

The temple of temples

(This entry is part of the Coming 2016 side blog)

I’m a sucker for ancient temple sites. No matter how touristy it may be and how cheesy some travellers might find it, I LOVED Angkor Wat. It inspired me. It moved me. It dazzled me. So ever since that experience, I’ve enlarged my to do list with those other majestic sites: Bagan in Myanmar, and Borobudur in Indonesia.

A few days before the full moon, I’ll leave Yogya for what I expect to be the highlight of this journey: Vesak day at Borobudur.

Vesak day (or Waisak day, as it’s also called) is Buddha birthday. The festival is celebrated all around Asia, in different ways. But almost all of those ways involve light. Candles, lanterns, fireworks. I was lucky enough to experience this in Korea, where temples were stunningly adorned and riverbeds got completely lit up with live sized paper statues that shone vividly at night. Now I will time my visit to the great Borobudur with this even grander festival. I want to join the procession. I want to hear the chants. I want to see the sky filled with lampions.

However, I’ll arrive early. Not just for the festival, but also – simply- for the heritage. To bicycle between the fields, hear monks chant in the monasteries, see the sunrise over those ancient stupas. Lord yes, I look forward to Borobudur. I look forward to it a lot!

Yogya

(This entry is part of the Coming 2016 side blog)

From Jakarta’s fameless countryside to the culture capital of Yogyakarta: it’s quite the leap – and not only thematically. It will take about 9 hours to traverse these 455km, mostly by train. I don’t know if it’s a good decision to go overland, but truth is flying won’t save me much time and the operating airlines seem shady – so rail road it is. The views better be nice!

I’ve heard tons of praise about Yogyakarta but funny enough, there don’t seem to be that many sights. So then I wonder… where does the fame come from? That said, I plan on taking a cooking class and maybe some yoga workshops. There are also lots of amazing temples in the vicinity. Some of those I’ll be visiting on a daytrip, but one – the one – requires more time. I’ll tell you all about that one in the next post!