Let’s Pack!

Saturday night, some of my closest friends and I gathered for a very decdent barbeque for my farewell. Let’s talk about bittersweet. We had a great party, I just wish that we would have been celebrating something besides me leaving. There has been a lot about living in Bandar Lampung that I have really hated, but a lot that I have loved too. I have been crying a lot lately.

But I am leaving on Friday, so pack I must.

Anyone who has spent any time with me days before a big trip knows that I really hate packing. That is why before I go anywhere, someone has to sit on my bed and keep an eye on me. They don’t have to help me pack, in fact, I would prefer it if they didn’t, I just ask that they make sure I actually pack instead of mess around on Facebook or watch an episode — ok, an entire season — of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Today is only Monday, but in the spirit of planning ahead, and so that instead of packing on Thursday, I can go to the beach, I woke up early and got almost all my packing done.

I feel crazy accomplished and am treating myself to an hour and a half foot massage while I am writing this post.

Packing after being here for a year was pretty challenging. I shed a lot of stuff, mainly clothes and toiletries, and have replaced them with treasures, such as batik, jewelry, tapestries, and Kamoro wood carvings that did not fit in my bag as easily as I thought they would. I did it though. Unfortunately, this giant clam shell that I love didn’t make the cut.

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Pretty sad to be leaving it behind, but you have no idea how heavy it is.

Everything worth carting accross the world is in a backpack and a suitcase. As for my carry-on, I’m gunna go with a very small backpack, and then for the last leg of the trip, I will have Monty flying in-cabin with me, which I’m sure will be fun for no one. American Airlines passengers flying from Chicago to Detroit on Saturday, my apologies.

Watch out, Indo! Susan’s coming!

I’ve been out of my mind excited for the past two months because Susan, my favorite travel buddy, will be in Indonesia on Sunday! We have a super exciting holiday planned out that includes a surf beach and isolated tropical island in Sumatra and then the pre-Islamic ruins of Central Java. Many stories are sure to come from the next week and a half!

Here are some photos of our previous adventures, though this is only scratching the surface of places we’ve been together!

Carnaval - La Vega, Dominican Republic 2009

Carnaval – La Vega, Dominican Republic

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru

Valparaiso, Chili - Rumor has it this summit was Darwin's favorite place

Valparaiso, Chile – Rumor has it this summit was Darwin’s favorite place

Wine tasting in Mendoza, Argentina

Wine tasting in Mendoza, Argentina

Colonia, Uruguay

Colonia, Uruguay

Potato Creek State Park, Indiana - the half way point between our two houses in the States

Potato Creek State Park, Indiana – the half way point between our two houses in the States

Chicago

Chicago

The Java Jive

For as frequently as I travel to Java, it rarely ends end up in blog, so I’m changing that now and am going to combine months of visits to the island of Java into one post.

Situated in Bandar Lampung, I’m pretty close to Java. The bus/ferry option takes about 12 hours, but by flight, I am only 30 minutes to Jakarta.

This is awesome because I have some family who live there and the night life in Jakarta is amazing. Unfortunately the city itself is famously congested and spread out. Jakarta is largest city in Southeast Asia and the entire metropolitan area makes it the second largest metropolitan area in the world. Getting anywhere means sitting in a cab for roughly an hour – often times more – which can be infuriating if you don’t possess the virtue patience. Macet, the Indonesian word for traffic jam, is one you learn instantly on arrival, and there are three types: Macet Normal, Macet Besar (big traffic jam) and Macet Total. It varies on time of day and destination. One Friday, I spent two hours getting from the airport to a hotel in central Jakarta, but then on Monday morning, it only took me 30 minutes to get back to the airport. Who knew.

view of Jakarta from a hotel room in the city center

view of Jakarta from a hotel room in the city center

Not quite the charm of colonial plazas in Latin America, but I love the tandem bikes with matching hats!

Not quite the charm of colonial plazas in Latin America, but I love the tandem bikes with matching hats!

Shanghai Blue, a 1920s Cantonese restaurant. Very cool. Very yummy. One of my favorite restaurants in the world.

Shanghai Blue, a 1920s Cantonese restaurant. Very cool. Very yummy. One of my favorite restaurants in the world.

 

Fortunately, escaping the city is fairly easy. One hour (and 90 cents) will land you in Bogor. Bogor, while the city itself isn’t too much to look at, has a stunning botanical garden. Besides being tropical and beautiful, this is really special because local parks, green spaces, and plazas didn’t really catch on here like they did in Europe, the USA, and Latin America, so once we found this place, it was very easy to spend all day leisurely strolling about and leaving was very difficult.

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Lots of Indonesians head to West Java to relax for the weekend and it’s very easy to see why. That being said, without a car getting around can be challenging. Wanting to completely escape the city for a few days, a friend and I took off for Situ Gunung National Park to take refuge by a lake and hike to a waterfall. It looks very close on the map

In Cisaat, West Java trying to get to Situ Gunung. We didn't want to be separated because it was night, we were in a strange place, and only one of us spoke Bahasa, so the police looked the other way as both of us got on one motorbike (illegal). The sign in the background reads "Do you want to die?"

In Cisaat, West Java trying to get to Situ Gunung. We didn’t want to be separated because it was night, we were in a strange place, and only one of us spoke Bahasa, so the police looked the other way as both of us got on one motorbike (illegal). The sign in the background reads “Do you want to die?”

Getting there was an adventure that we did not anticipate and no one seemed to be able to give us reliable information on how to get there or how long it would take. From Jakarta, someone said the total journey would take four hours. When we were on a small local bus, almost at the drop off city to transfer to a motor bike, we were told that it would be an additional four hours and that we would be lucky to arrive before the early morning. Fortunately, that person was wrong and, while it was dark when we arrived, it wasn’t early morning, or even late at night.

The second we settled into our little cabin by the lake, though, we knew the journey was worth it even just for a night and leisurely morning and afternoon. Besides the birds, frogs, and insects, it was dead silent and while walking around, our only light was from the moon. We found a group of campers on a company camping trip, which was very fortunate because they had food and we had none and we got to enjoy a proper camp fire jam session.

We slept through the sunrise, which was unfortunate because that’s when the lake is supposed to be at most beautiful and set off to find the waterfall. It was beautiful, refreshing, worth the trouble, and very difficult to leave.
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The journey back wasn’t nearly as stressful – until we got to Bogor and no one wanted to tell us how to get back to the train station. One daring taxi driver even tried to tell us that the station was closed – liar – and that he would be happy to drive us back to Jakarta. I’m sure he would have been happy, because that would have cost us a fortune. Arriving in Jakarta a two hours later, by train, was very satisfying since we had just done what at least five people told us would be impossible. We were tempted to go back and find the taxi driver who said that the train station was closed and say “see!”, but we chose cocktails instead.

Java is a really intriguing island, home to the Borobudur archaeological zone, lava rivers, the highest concentration of Indonesian people, and most of the Dutch leftovers from the colonial period. I haven’t been able to explore the island enough and I probably won’t, which is a frustrating reality of living and working in such a large and fascinating country and mostly only having the weekends to travel. It’s been an important island in my experience here thus far though and I’m sure that I will continue to get to know Java better in the coming months.

Surfing: I need more practice.

Last weekend, the bule crew (minus Leigh) took a trip to Krui. We were off to a shakey start as we had planned to leave Lampung at 4am Saturday morning to arrive in Krui at 9:am… Amy got up, but the rest of us were dead to the world until 6:45am. Red wine is to blame for my oversleeping, but I can’t speak for Yen and Laurent as to how they didn’t their   3am alarm. Anyway, we made it into Krui at 1pm ready for the beach!

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What a slice of paradise we found! The beach was pristine, the waves were fun, the few other tourists we met were awesome, and the fish was oh so fresh!

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So onto surfing. The waves are the main attraction to Krui and at Mandiri Beach, where we were staying, the waves were rough and the current was strong, but the sand was so soft and we could not argue with the convenience of walking out of our cabin and onto the beach, so while the learning conditions were subideal, this was our chosen beach for surfing.

I have always fantasized about being a surfer, and Amy said that when we first met, my hair was so blonde and I was so tan that she was convinced that I was a surfer… so I got the right look, which is step one.

We met some very cool Americans over a few beers at a surf camp and one of them accepted the challenge of teaching me how to surf. This was not my first lesson, but one lesson every three years since I was 18 hasn’t exactly made me a pro. Amy stayed on the beach taking pictures for a bit, and these are what she shot…

Dave in the background biting his finger nails while the ocean is treating me like clothes in the washing machine.

Dave in the background biting his finger nails while the ocean is treating me like clothes in the washing machine.

Those are my legs poking out the wave.

Those are my legs poking out the wave.

I stood up and rode in enough times to declare it a successful day surfing, but I don’t have any pictures to prove it. Plans to return to Krui are already in the works, which means that 2013 will be the year I break my pattern of standing on a surf board only once every three years. That also means that 2013 will probably the year that I realize my potential as a surfer and go pro.

I think I have my work cut out for me.

I definitely have my work cut out for me.

Dorky Travelers in Myanmar….

This is the last of my Myanmar posts, but I realized that I was leaving my travel buddies out of my blog posts, which I’m going to fix right now.

Myanmar Holiday Part 7: Mount Popa

From Bagan we took a day trip to Mount Popa before going back to Yangon for New Years, and it was seriously National Lampoon’s Burmese Vacation. Hiring a car for the day cost five of us $8 a head and we had a list of places we wanted to see. Sinister is the adjective we can best use to describe our driver, and I do not have any photos of this individual because honestly, he was kind of scary. Our day with him did make for a good story though.

Driving out of Bagan, he pulled over and yelled out his window to many a passerby “Come on! Mount Popa!” Not surprisingly at all, no one hopped into our van. We did, however, make a stop at another guesthouse where we were to pick someone up. We were told not to discuss money with the new guy because he was being charged $10, while the rest of us were being charged $8. This guy later told us that he thought he would be on a guided tour.

On our drive, we stopped at a local toddy distillery, that we were not interested in, and were told “Stop. Get out. Alcohol. Photos.” Confused, we asked to continue on to Mount Popa, which he begrudgingly did.

Our next stop was a vista looking out a Mount Popa where we were swarmed by children selling rocks – magical rocks that RATTLE – and petrified wood. Yes, I bought tons of rocks for my friends back in Indonesia, who, luckily, think they’re as awesome as I do.

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When we arrived at Mount Popa, music was blaring from a temple where woman, seemingly in a trance, was dancing, monkeys were running all around, and colorful egg shaped human figures were all over. The place was instantly captivating and worth the very awkward car trip.

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We climbed the steep steps up to the temple perched on top of Mount Popa, stopping for a quick lunch of noodles where we got a taste of the monkeys’ relationship with the people. It’s not good. After my trip to the Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud, Bali, I’m hesitant around our furry cousins, but they are still fun to watch. From a distance. A man walking around beating a stick gave us a nod and a thumbs up — like an trusty uncle who had our back—and made sure that we stayed a safe distance from the monkeys. The old ladies serving up our noodles also protected us… by sling-shotting the monkeys when they got too close.

When we reached the top, were rewarded with a stunning view of wide open space. Looking northeast, we were 300 miles from India, but the area between us and India is currently full of conflict, making it impossible to cross. We also saw an impressive crater that Lonely Planet says is a fun hike and were determined to do it. We descended to find our driver so that he would take us there, as well as the petrified forest.

Explaining the crater was challenging and thank goodness we had Blake to draw it. We were confident that he understood where we wanted to go and he told us to meet him back at the car at 1:15pm. We got some more food, and I was really enjoying an ear of sweet corn when a monkey snuck up behind me and ripped it out of my hands while I was gnawing on it. Where were my sling shot ladies when I needed them?

 

I hope that he enjoyed his corn...

I hope that he enjoyed his corn…

When we met back up with our driver, he was decorating the car with flowers and said with a big betel nut grin “my lady”, and a woman we had never seen got in the van. We drove for a while, stopped, and were sent up a hill for “45 minutes!” There was a reclining Buddha, and a nice view, but we were really confused as to where we were. Looking out, we were trying to work out if we were on the edge of the crater or not, but you can see in the picture that the trees look big and then there’s a cliff and they get really small, so we figured that maybe we were.

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are we on a crater?

are we on a crater?

Also on that stop, I lost my pretty sunglasses in a squat toilet, and the lady guarding the toilet kept telling me they were gone forever while I was in mourning.

Blake and Joe went back to car to find all the curtains drawn and our driver in the backseat with his lady. When we dropped her off at her house that was nearby, we realized that we had not been to the crater, and probably wouldn’t go there. Our driver and his lady just needed some alone time, and he knew how to distract six tourists for forty-five minutes.

We asked him to then take us to the petrified forest, which we settled on being “stone tree” and he took us a roadside tea shop that had petrified wood as a fence. Stone trees, sure, petrified forest… not quite. I don’t have any pictures from that special stop. We went back to Bagan after that, awkwardly laughing and with no words to describe the day trip. It was National Lampoon’s Burmese Vacation, and one of the weirder days that I’ve had traveling.