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A Trip to Indonesia



March 05, 2013 – Comments (0)

Board: Macro Economics

Author: OrmontUS

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38 17 Feb 2013 Tanjung Priok, Jakarta VX

Selamat Pagi (Good morning in Bahasa, the Indonesian version of the Malay language).

We are going to be spending the next ten days or so roaming around Indonesia before returning once more to Singapore and retracing our approximate route back (generally stopping at different ports).

Indonesia consists of about 17,000 islands, about half of which are occupied by people speaking over 700 different languages (though Bahasa, a Malay language, is the official toungue and spoken by everyone). With the exception of Bali and some small enclaves, the country is predominantly Moslem. Bali and a few small areas (such as that around Mt. Bromo) are Hindu and there is a rather small portion of the population made up of Chinese practicing Buddism, Toaism and other philosophies. There is a small Christian population.

I apologize for my inconsistent use of units when I flip-flop between metric and imperial. While I still tend to think in imperial, metric has become fairly natural as well. Since most Americans are more comfortable in imperial (and most of the readers of this document tend to be Americans, or at least those who grew up with imperial in their youth), I don’t go to extreme lengths to convert everthing to metric (especially temperatures where most Americans are clueless) but still tend to favor it when abroad.

A high percentage of our crew is from Indonesia - all of the dining staff and room stewards. There were a lot of crew getting off to meet family who had spent a day coming by ferry to see them, or else just to get off and to pick up the food items they love and miss after being onboard for many many months. The delays in procedure frequently meant lots of them didn't get too much time with their family. Others were lucky enough to have made arrangements for their wives and children to come onboard the ship. Our dining room steward also got ashore and was smiling ear to ear about getting food and just getting off the ship.

Indonesia is one of those places where US dollars are accepted by some, but confuse those who don’t deal directly with tourists on a regular basis. That said, you will generally get better prices by paying in Rupiah’s.

We are greeted by a troupe of Indonesian dancers and traditional musicians. Once inside the cruise terminal, we found an Indonesian blues band playing US music and singing with an appropriate country accent.

Jakarta is a typical large “traditional” Asian city from an infrastructure (or lack of it) standpoint. Typical in the format of Bangkok, Pham Phen, Nanking rather than like the cities we have been visiting, KL and Singapore (even many of China’s cities show the mark of sane city planners and actually even Bangkok has come a long way). It’s more dangerous than the rest of Indonesia (but is not terribly so), has chaotic traffic, has an open sewer system, etc. The roads have been structured to be primarily one way with lots of limited access streets. The rules of engagement for traffic mean that intersections are no-man’s land.

There was a pile of shipping containers that seemed longer than the Great Wall of China and stretching back from the sea wall as far as the eye could see. Freighters lined up against the wall as about a dozen cranes were hard at work loading the containers. I wonder how often the wrong container is loaded and ends up (like errant airline luggage) in the wrong port.

The ship rented a large terminal building to hold a party for family members of crew (the majority of whom are from Indonesia and the ship will be making a continual effort, while in Indonesia, to accommodate family get-togethers as many of these men and women sail on 10 month contracts). There was food, music and a party for a couple of hundred people.

Jakarta is Asia’s durian fruit of cities. While the durian is widely sold and noted for its sweetness, like the Indonesian people, it can turn so terrible that it is banned from most Asia hotels and subway systems (Singapore will levy a $500 fine). Jakarta is a city of urban blight. There are open canals of sewage, flooded streets and overall poverty. It is filled with modern high-rise apartments, each of which has a terrace draped with drying laundry, and hundreds of modern shopping malls which is where the locals go for recreation (so they are filled with activities – from bumper cars to bungee jumps – which we might expect to find elsewhere).

We’ve been to Jakarta before and decided that, since we’d seen the few sights a year ago (the most impressive one was the National Monument – a tall tower which gives a panoramic view and which has a basement museum about the history of Indonesia and a craft flee market adjacent to its parking lot. There is apparently a large flea market in Jakarta which would have been fun to go to, but we found out too late and time was too short – we’ll go next time we drop in to this area), we’d use this port for a maintenance stop. The boss needed her hair tampered with, we needed to hit an ATM to get currency for the next few days in Indonesia, we needed to replenish some toiletries, I wanted to pick up a SIM chip for my phone (never got around to this) and I wanted to hit a spa with our two friends for a massage. The ship supplied a shuttle to a local mall. We left my wife to get her hair done and started to walk to an adjacent mall which had a spa (the vast “Mall of Indonesia” – MOI, pronounced “moy” -, across from Lobby #7 is “Lotus Reflexology”). The city planners of this place should be hung by their short and curlies. We went to a cab, but (I guess because it would have been a short fare) he told us it was only a short walk. Well, you “couldn’t get there from here” and it turned out to be a physical impossibility to walk from one mall to the other (only about 150 meters away, but after walking the length of our mall and crossing the parking lanes we found the two malls were separated by a tall wall topped with razor wire. When we noticed a couple of locals coming out from between the trees along the separation, we found that there was a place to scale the wall where the razor wire had been trampled down at the top, but it looked a bit too risky for us tourist types, so we abandoned that route – though in retrospect it might have been worth it) and after a series of adventures involving near death (walking across highway bridges with no shoulders and filled with Asian no holds barred traffic, walking along the top of 12 inch wide walls with a flowing cesspool canal on one side and a sea of mud over a meter down on the other and so on), I ended up retracing our steps and taking a cab (picking my friends up along the way) for a 3km circuitous to the other mall (fortunately cabs are very cheap by our standards and the fare was less than a dollar – the Bluebird cabs are the best ones to use). This killed an hour (which in the end game got me into trouble with the boss as her hair job took two hours).

We finally got to the massage spa and they informed us that 90 minutes of foot reflexology would cost 35,000 rupiahs and a 1 1/2 hour full body massage would be 75,000 rupiahs. For a moment we were math challenged and really considered the ramifications of the difference between $37 and $78, but then realized that at nearly 10,000 rupiahs to the US dollar we’ve had Starbucks coffees that cost more and splurged on the full body job (at $8USD for 90 minutes). The massages were professional and good. As this place apparently gets very few tourists (they originally thought we were Koreans for some strange reason), there was almost no English spoken. One of the masseurs knew a bit and as they could hear each other, each English comment went into their “collective” for discussion as did their strategy about how to handle the final “invoicing”. This ended up as two phrases repeated a number of times – “Pay me now” and “tip now also”. Because I only had “large” bills (50,000 rupiahs) and I didn’t want to have to fight to get change, I tipped the masseuse $2US. This caused a bit of confusion because she didn’t recognize the bills and didn’t know the exchange rate. After a bit of a conversation in Bahasa with her co-workers put her at ease about its value she seemed to become far more satisfied. Unfortunately, another mathematic reality crept in which had my wife waiting for me after her hair job at the other mall and the mazelike re-approach with the return taxi had us back to her where she was waiting at the other mall 45 minutes late (don’t ask).

While we made it back to the ship on time, over 150 passengers on the ship’s tour buses were over two hours late because of heavy traffic.

Most of the cars on the streets of Jakarta are Japanese (with driver on the right hand size) and most are surprisingly new. This is a motorcycle heavy city. School is paid for by the State through Junior High School, but high school must be paid for by the parents. While Indonesia pumps lots of oil, it is generally refined elsewhere and re-imported. Gasoline is state subsidized ant costs about $.50US a liter. Coffee, whose beans are exported, is also subsidized. Apparently, the best coffee is created locally by “passing” the whole beans through a cat’s intestine, collecting them from the feces and then grinding them. Chinese cell phones cost about $20-30, Blackberry’s about $130 and Marlborough cigarettes about $1.30 (with local brands a bit less). Dunkin Donuts and McDonalds charge nearly the same as in the States and are places the young take their dates to. Liquor is highly taxed and very expensive (when available) in restaurants in this generally Muslim country. The very top restaurants in Jakarta cost the same (or more, if considering alcohol), as they would in the US or Europe, but excellent food (in a vast variety of different Asian styles) is available in the food court areas of the malls for extremely reasonable prices (from a Western standpoint). Middle class houses (or 2 bedroom modern condos) cost about $20-25K US and high end villas cost $100K and up. A month of cell phone connection with data service is about $3.00 (correct decimal point). A middle class worker (teacher, street cop, etc.) would expect to make about $350 a month. The working poor make minimum wage at $200 a month and a “lower” professional about $550 a month. Next to that, the $800-1500 a month (plus tips) that a Holland America Cruise line employee makes (for six month contracts of seven days a week, 14 hours a day) allows them to buy homes, cars and collect enough capital to open a restaurant if they want to. It is interesting that Balinese (who make up a small part of the country’s population – Bali being a small island compared to Java, Borneo, Sumatra, Papua, etc.) make up 30% of the Indonesians employed by Holland America. Almost all of the rest come from Java where their school the “MS. New Jakarta” is located (which contains full sized mockups of the ship’s dining rooms and kitchens). Balinese are unique in that they are generally Hindu while 85% of Indonesians are Muslim. The Balinese are known to be a very peaceful and artistic bunch (and much of Java is a pretty rough and tumble place). As Holland America only accepts as student waiters guys with previous experience in 5 star hotels and I guess their density in Bali helps explain at least part of the demographics.

We left Jakarta the last time we were here with the feeling that it was the first port we touched that offer few reasons to return, but this time the massage was worth every penny we paid :- ).

39 18 Feb 2013 Semarang, Java, Indonesia VX

Again, there are Indonesian dancers and a traditional band to accompany them as we get off the ship.

We had visited Semarang in the fall of 2011, but spent our time seeing the very worthwhile Indo-Asian monument a couple of hundred miles away known as Borobudur. Since this was a journey not worth doing twice (once seen, I suspect this sort of thing doesn’t change much and the trip was now even more expensive than a year ago), so we decided to see what Semarang had to offer. There was a free shuttle bus from the ship to a shopping mall. Again we are with our friends from Vancouver (there are actually many more Canucks than Americans aboard as they are smart enough to make the attempt to escape winter) and we decided to take a cab to the Sam Poo Kong Chinese temple complex. This place, according to legend, is the burial place of a Chinese explorer king who ranged the world (including possibly North America) in the 1400’s. The entrance fee was about $1 (rounding off 10,000 Rupiahs to the buck) and there is an additional $3 charge to get into the good bits. There is a fantastic bas relief stone mural commemorating his voyages, but the rest of the temples are worth seeing. Since this is shortly after the Chinese New Year, there were red paper lanterns and other decorations adorning everywhere.

Afterwards, we decided to take a cab to the city’s Chinatown. While the area seemed to use a lot of bicycle fronted rickshaws, which were pretty novel, there were no other redeeming characteristics in this largely commercial (and typically blighted) neighborhood. With the assistance of the employees of a motorcycle repair shop (none of whom could speak English) we called a taxi and retreated back to the mall. (I found out later that there was a large market in the town that would have been interesting to visit, but such is life and there will be others). At the mall I picked up some toiletries and got a haircut ($5 including tip).

I also bought a SIM chip for my phone as I may have to make a couple of calls to Lombok and Singapore. There are no formalities like giving a name or passport number here and the chips cost about $1.50US with a bit of talk time. As the girls selling these spoke no English, they quantified the time that came with the chip as “BLAH”, but if I added some money, I would get “BLAH, BLAH, BLAH”. I added another $5 to make sure I would have enough to call when roaming. Apparently I also have a bunch of data bandwidth as well on my phone. With phones available at $20, and talk time/data so cheap, almost every Indonesian, from peasant child on up, carries a cell phone. Few carry smartphones (because of their high cost) so the cheap data costs are not much of a risk to the phone companies. The two major phone service companies are XL and simPATI and service between everyone who uses a chip rom the same company is for free (Of course I chose the wrong one for my calls to our Indonesian friends :- ). I will likely put a chip in my wife’s as well just to use for emergencies. (She and our two friends were lost in the mall for an hour – I, of course, always knew exactly where I was at all times :- ).

The two of us guys ate a wonderful meal of Indonesian food in a restaurant where the dishes were ordered from pictures on the menu (one good looking dish, one ugly dish and one strange dish was how we picked). The ugly dish turned out to be half a deep fried bird (we think chicken?) covered with something like a pile of deep fried sawdust which tasted like panko and accompanied by a small dish of incendiary chili sauce. The good looking one was seafood in a sauce on to of rice. The strange one was something like Japanese raimon noodles covered in sawdust and some scallions and sliced fried egg with a side dish filled with a number of assorted meatballs and wantons floating in something like miso soup. We accompanied this with “cappuccino juice” (cold coffee frappe of some sort). We took photos to show the doctors in case we needed our stomachs pumped, but so far, so good.

After the mall, we took the shuttle back to the ship (and found the wi-fi in the terminal busted).

For those who are curious about Borobudur, the following was written after our trip there about a year ago:

Before we begin, let me preface this by saying that in the 40 +/- cruises we have taken, we have only taken one cruise offered excursion (because of an unusually short window in which to see Herculaneum near Pompeii). Usually we find the offered excursions expensive, time consuming and so on. That said, there is a rather unique site a couple of hundred kilometers from Semarang by the name of Borobudur Temple. This is a huge Buddhist temple built in the 8th century and then buried in volcanic ash and jungle a couple of hundred years later (and re-discovered in the second half of the 20th century). The trip was down a series of frequently crowded minor roads and at least if we took the ship’s tour (relatively expensive, but you only go around once) they would wait if we were late. There were two tours offered – one by bus and one that was partially by train (stipulated as not air conditioned, but with no further explanation). Our traveling companions had booked the train one (about $25 a person more than the bus one, but what the heck), so we did as well.

So we get on the bus and a red cops car with flashing light and siren pulls in front of us. This guy got his jollies by driving in the opposing lane of traffic, driving oncoming traffic onto the shoulder with our bus in close pursuit. On occasion the oncoming traffic kept coming (say semi’s who ignored his waves out the window) and our bus would dive for cover into the midst of traffic. This duplication of the chase scene from the movie Bullet was pretty cool. Icing on the cake was when the guy in the front seat got nauseous and offered me the first car in the roller coaster. Then we pulled into the train station and got into one of the three old wooden carriages attached to an antique steam locomotive. Even better, since there were no flight attendants to ask, I just walked up to be back of the locomotive and stood jut behind the guy feeding logs into the fire box. No sissy OSHA regulations for those guys. The engineer was like Horatio Hornblower and tooting the whistle at about a million decibels whenever he saw people. This was pretty often as the train tracks ran within about 15 feet from the backs of people’s houses. Apparently the train coming through is either pretty rare or as close as these guys get to entertainment. Everyone old and young waved and kids ran alongside trying to race with the train. Black smoke poured from the belly of the beast and, when the wind shifted and the train was going slowly, filled the carriages with wood smoke. We got off after a while at a station which had about a dozen assorted other engines as well as a turntable to get them onto the tracks. After a pit stop (I won’t bore you with the descriptions I got of the lady’s toilet) we traveled by train about ½ hour further where we met our bus (and the same souvenir vendors who had besieged us until we boarded the train). Prices of about 10% the original asking price was achievable (as long as a low enough starting price was chosen and then upwards increments kept small. I think handicrafts may be nicer in Bali, but did pick up a handful of trinkets (stick puppet, horn spoon, wooden mask, and refrigerator magnet – total price somewhat under $10. I passed on the poison dart blow gun as I already have one from a previous trip to Papua New Guinea).

Well the bus got us to Borobudur. This mountain sized temple is built in the style of the much larger Angkor Wat in Cambodia. It’s worth seeing if you are in the area (especially coupled with the cool train ride and police chase thing), but all things being equal, given the choice, go to Angkor Wat. While climbing on this thing (maybe walking in reverse and unraveling my karma?) I was videotaping and tripped over a stone garbage can (about 15 inches high). Well, I went a$$ over tea kettle and wrapped up my knees (I was wearing short so they also got abraded). My first concern was that I didn’t have a broken kneecap. My second was that the various bleeding abrasions on my knees, shins and one hand wouldn’t get infected. My third was for my embarrassment at being such a klutz as some of the ship’s people doused me first in alcohol (smarts a “bit”) then smeared me in Bactericide and Neosporin (ice packs had to wait until I got back to the ship. It seems today (next day) that no permanent damage has been done (except to my pride). After wandering all over the temple (in my sarong – yes everyone had to wear these – can always blame that for my clumsiness), we went to eat at the adjacent resort hotel restaurant. The buffet was authentic Indonesian food with every semblance of spice removed (like authentic painting with all the pigment gone). On the bus ride back, we stopped at a coffee shop for a bit of local premium Java (actually very good). This made us really late in the middle of rush hour (and another 40 miles to go) and our pet cop’s car went absolutely bug-$hit crazy in an effort to get us through traffic (regardless of the devastation he caused along the way). These islands have such a dense population and such lousy roads that heavy traffic (including lots of trucks and buses) extends into the middle of nowhere. It was the most fun I had since driving a cab in Manhattan when I was going to school. Good news was the ship waited (we were the first of 14 buses to show up late).

When new got back, there was a tent set up (like in Jakarta) for the Indonesian members of the ship’s crew to meet with their families (and offload their RC helicopters, bicycles and other stuff they had purchased for their kids in China.

40 19 Feb 2013 At Sea

We are passing numerous oil drilling platforms as we cruise along the coast of Java on our way to Bali.

41 20 Feb 2013 Benoa (was Tanah Ampo), Bali, Indonesia ON TR VX 08:00 AM

While the ship was supposed to tender, fortunately they changed the port to one we can dock at. This is an extended stay here and we don’t leave until midnight tomorrow. Our friends have gone off on a romantic holiday and will be spending the night at a resort. While Bali offers some outstanding scuba diving, we have elected to explore the island. We have joined with a couple who overpaid for a tour guide/cab for the two days and agreed to share. (She negotiated to $95 a day when I’m pretty sure $50 +/- a day is a more reasonable amount for a tourist).

Rather than the dancers we had at the other ports, here the band is accompanying a group of men in costume who are doing accrobatics and standing on each other’s shoulders while keeping a soccer ball in the air for man to man.

Bali (and also Lombok) is known for its handicrafts. These include all manner of carving, weaving, batiks and so on. While this is the case, many of the goods sold are machine made and one has to examine them closely if you insist on handmade goods. There are substantial differences in quality (which should reflect in dramatic price differences – but this is sometimes not the case) between goods which may, on the surface, look similar. We started out the day by walking through a horde of street venders selling batik sarongs/shirts (both are generally machine made here), mediocre wood carving and a wide variety of trade goods. Bargaining is the order of the day (we didn’t get away unscathed and ended up with two batik sarongs and a shirt – though this turned out to be too small for me). The salespeople are very aggressive and the best way to avoid being hassled is to ignore them completely. A couple of times I was asked for an additional dollar for “good luck” after reaching a deal. My response was that it would be my pleasure if they would give me 10,000 Rupiahs in return (this elicited a smile and they stopped asking).

Finally we found our ride in the throng of assorted taxi guys (some already with appointments, some trying to negotiate one). “Romeo” (Indonesians frequently take a Western nickname – in a couple of days we will be getting together with “Ivan”) first took us to a silver factory. It was actually pretty interesting to see how filigreed silver jewelry is made by hand. I bought a pair of earrings for my wife which even though I bargained to a 75% discount, was still probably more than market (so Romeo could get his cut, no doubt).

We went to a coffee plantation where they showed us not only coffee, but cocoa and spices growing. We got a tasting platter of 14 coffees and teas as well as chocolates and alcoholic beverages to sample. The best coffee in Bali (not on the sample platter) is prepared after passing through the digestive system of an animal which looked like a mongoose and which is then pulled from the feces for processing (don’t shoot the messenger).

We then went to a large Hindu temple complex. Our driver has a small shrine/offering in his car and explained that most Balinese make/buy about 20-25 of these per day and place them at their home temple, village temple, gravesites, etc., etc. on a daily basis. I saw a number of women with trays of these on their heads bringing them house to house like milkmen and the streets are littered with these little palm baskets filled with flowers. While the vast majority of Indonesians are Muslim, almost all Balinese are Hindu. The Hindu temples on Bali are numerous, frequently very old and have numerous stone and wood carvings covering the buildings. The swastika is a frequently found Hindu sign of good luck both here and in India (but the direction of rotation is the opposite of that used by the Nazi’s).

Alongside the roads are informal petrol stations which sell gasoline by the 1 liter bottle to motorcycles. These bottles are displayed on stands along the roadside. This is more expensive than buying at a gas station (where the bottles are filled), but is a convenience as regular gas stations are far apart and the lines for motorcycles are long.

We then went to a couple of wood carving places as the towns of Mas and Ubud are famous for their intricate carvings. In general, the carvings were full of huge quantities of taste – most of it bad. They fell largely into two categories. The first had religious themes. These ran the gamut of Hindu gods, Ramayana heroes/demons, Buddha heads, larger than life Jesus’s, etc. The other group included full sized stallions who had been excited by mares, glass tables being supported – one side by the fingertips of a giant hand holding a naked lady and the other by her body as she arched her back, naked men, specific organs of naked men accessorized with bottle openers and on and on. I suppose there are people somewhere in the world who might be interested in this stuff as there must be a reason for it all to have been made, but I’m not clear who that might be. Knowing their skill, I have taken a piece of Madagascar ebony with me from the States to have a couple of specific projects carved. While they regularly carve in a wood that they call ebony, the African stuff is much harder. I didn’t push too hard on the pricing because I knew this material was going to be a pain for them. Within a few minutes, the carver came to me with a bent chisel (they seem to use iron tools, rather than steel and they were no match for my wood). The items were complete by the end of the day and I had our driver bring me to pick them up (the boss of the carvers waited for us with an unhappy look on his face and probably a resolution never to carve “real” ebony again).

We ate lunch in a restaurant which was more expensive than it should have been (though the food was good – I had a local beer and chicken in green curry).

We then went to a monkey park and a walk in the rain through a shopping area of Ubud.

Returning to the ship, we were a bit lonely as our friends have elected to take a night ashore and stay in a hotel and get pampered.

42 21 Feb 2013 Benoa (was Tanah Ampo), Bali, Indonesia TR VX

Romeo picked us up again and the rain poured down. We picked up a couple of sarongs and a batik shirt (turns out too small for me even at 3XL – sizes are a bit strange here). Fortunately we travel with lightweight disposable ponchos which came in handy. I bought a couple of intricately carved cow bones as souvenirs (I guess they used to do this with ivory in the past). I also bought another SIM chip (for my wife’s phone to allow her to easily call me if there is an emergency) at about $1.50US.

We went to a couple of temples (and bought a laquered mahogany bowl with intricate painting and mother of pearl inlay at one) and a couple of beaches. One of the areas is infested by monkeys. While the monkeys in the monkey park are well fed and ignore people, the ones here will steal an earring, bag or pair of glasses and hold it “for ransom” until fed. We saw one looking at peoples sandals as we walked past and then pounce, grabbing a flip-flop right off of a woman’s foot as she walked behind us. Before it could get away, she grabbed its tail and whacked it on the head (these guys are the size of medium sized dogs, but have larger teeth), but it escaped anyway and climbed a tree – taunting her with the shoe while staying just out of reach as she screamed at it. The guard near the gate (who sported a professional sized sling shot) simply giggled at the fun.

We ate at a seafood restaurant on the beach where you select your meal from the live beasts swimming in tanks (and which are then charged for by weight). The preparations are simple, but good - boiled, grilled or fried and covered in garlic or Balinese barbeque (mixed chili) sauce. The side dishes were rice and a green like escarole mixed with peanuts and sombal hot chili sauce.

43 22 Feb 2013 Lembar, Lombok, Indonesia TR VX

Lombok is an unspoiled version of Bali. The translation of the island’s name means chili pepper.

We arrived at the Lembar port early in the morning and this was another port that required us to tender ashore.

Today we were going on a private excursion of Lombok with Ivan, the former assistant matre d’ from the cruise we took in the fall of 2011. (After a dozen years working for Holland America, he retired last year and opened up a furniture manufacturing business. His friend, another HAL alumni did the driving). As soon as we got off of the boat, an Indonesian band welcomed us and we were greeted by hordes of young men selling their waves. The cheapest and the most fun way to travel short distances in Lombok is by cidomo , a locally designed horse-drawn cart – and these were everywhere.

This island is part of the chain of the Lesser Sunda Islands, Lombok is separated from Bali by Lombok Strait. Indonesia is one of the most populous countries in the world, numbering 240 million (only China and India number more). Lombok’s population numbers 3.5 million which is quite a lot considering it is fairly small. The Dutch first visited the island in the late 1600's but settled mostly the eastern half, leaving the western half to be ruled by the dynastic Hindus from Bali. Cultural and religious tensions simmered until a revolt which occurred between 1891 and 1894 leading to the annexation of the entire island to the Netherland East Indies. Mount Rinjani is the islands most dramatic geological landmark, rising 12,224 feet, making it the third highest in Indonesia. There are 6 religions now with Muslim being the dominant one, followed by Hindu and Christianity. Bali's dominant religion is Hindu, the animism version and the sacred is woven into their daily life like water. We saw many Muslim temples but only one Hindu shrine in one field.

On our drive from temple to temple, we saw the many parts of the countryside, with rice paddies planted right up to the front door of homes, schools, and public buildings. Over 95 per cent of the Lombok population has their own home, but not everyone owns land which is vital for growing rice. Rice is the main crop, with two seasons and vegetables being planted in the third.

Over 95 per cent of the Lombok population has their own home, but not everyone owns land which is vital for growing rice. Rice is the main crop, with two seasons and vegetables being planted in the third.

After visiting a pottery manufacturer where there was a potter or two working at wheels, we were taken to Narmada park which was built by Anak Anung in the Balinese kingdom. The park was built as a replica of Rinjani mountain and kingdom palace, but has an Olympic size pool opened to the public. There is a fountain of youth where, for a donation, you can drink a sip of an elixir which will give you eternal youth (since there was no money-back guaranty, I passed on the offer :- ). There were even people washing their clothes in the fresh water lake!

The Mayura Water Palace was built in 1744, and was once part of the Balinese kingdom's royal court in Lombok. It's a pleasant retreat now, popular with fishermen and families, but in 1894 it was the site of bloody battles between the Dutch and Balinese. The complex contains a large artificial lake, with a modest replica of a bale kambang (floating pavilion) in its center, connected to the shoreline by a raised footpath.

We moved on to Pura Meru, the largest temple in Lombok. Built in 1720 by Balinese prince Anak Agung Made Karang of the Singosari kingdom in an attempt to unite Lombok, it's dedicated to the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.The outer courtyard has a hall housing the wooden drums that are beaten to call believers to ceremonies (the June full moon is the most important of these). The inner court has one large and 33 small shrines, as well as three meru (multi-roofed shrines), which are in a line: the central meru, with 11 tiers, is Shiva's house; the meru to the north, with nine tiers, is Vishnu's; and the seven-tiered meru to the south is Brahma's.

Then we continued to Lingsar Temple, which had a beautiful pond and gorgeous structures. We saw women walking through the temple and there was a section of the temple where people made offerings and even stayed to cook food for the gods. Another section of the temple, had a pond in the center where you made a wish for good luck. Pura Lingsar is a large temple complex, built in 1714, and is the holiest place on Lombok. The temple combines the Balinese Hindu and Wektu Telu religions in one complex. The Hindu temple in the northern section is higher than the Wektu Telu temple in the southern section. The Wektu Telu temple is noted for its small enclosed pond devoted to Lord Vishnu, and the holy eels which can be enticed from their hiding places with hard-boiled eggs (available at stalls outside). You will be expected to rent a sash (if you are wearing long pants, this substitutes for a sarong) and/or sarong (if you are wearing shorts) to enter the temple.

Somewhere along the line, I did a bit of bartering for a very nice inlaid wooden bowl and a poison dart blow-gun (the boss was not amused). I pass on the vast assortment of bracelets, coconuts, table runners and batiks.

Lombok is a religious Moslem enclave and we heard the call to prayer coming from “the island of 1,000 mosques”.

We moved on to Ivan’s shop where he crafts furniture for sale to local hotels and guesthouses. Most of the work is done by hand – even steps which home workshop denizens would use power tools, but the quality is finished and professional. The sound effects came from a combination of Arabic music and hammers banging and the wall had a framed verse from the Koran. There was a workman spraying varnish using just a dust mask and the air was filled with sawdust. When Ivan lit up a smoke it sort of sent shivers down my spine.

From there we went to his home. While a modest two bedroom house, it is elegant inside with carved furniture and style. He has a lovely garden which includes a waterfall decorated by ceramic vases in wall niches.

He called ahead to a restaurant and placed our lunch order (asking them to tone down the chili and “make it sweet”). The meal (I picked up the tab, of course). The meal consisted of two chicken dishes, one spicy, one in honey sauce (according to my wife, also spicy), a grilled local fish (delicious as it was doused in honey before cooking), around a dozen spits holding grilled bone marrow sitting in a dish of very spicy chili sauce, deep fried breaded sliced brains, a couple of dishes of escarole/peanuts/sprouts/sombal (spicy chili sauce), and eggplant and chili dish and some peeled cucumber slices. This was accompanied by bowls of rice. My selected beverage was young coconut juice (and slimy scrapings of the inside of the nut) mixed with honey and my wife had a honeydew melon juice. The eating is done without utensils. With the right hand (ONLY! – the left is not ever used for food) one takes food in the fingers to the rice. Then scooping the food with some rice, it’s put in the mouth. My sainted (as the saying goes)always told me not to eat with my hands and now it’s OK :- ).

After eating, we headed back to the tenders. We gave Ivan gifts for himself, his kids and his wife (as well as tipping the driver) and returned to the ship where we ran the gauntlet of people selling pearls.

Lombok is not very clean there are open water ditches in Lembok, with sewage evident and children playing in the water, as well as garbage visible everywhere.

The educational opportunities are improving, with most wanting their children to become doctors. The Indonesian government is trying to encourage people to decrease their family size to 2 children from the average of 5 or 6 today.

If you work in the public sector you are not paid very highly, but your pension passes to your wife after your death, then to your eldest child till they turn 35, then to the next one. Only the first 2 children qualify. The poverty is so bad that it is driving hundreds of thousands of people to attempt to float their small boats to Australia hoping to claim political asylum. This problem was so bad that Australia was paying Indonesia to fix the problem. There were tons of people just sitting on the sides of the street and tons of markets along the sides of the roads. The unemployment problem is very obvious.

The farmers need to have a second or even third income, which is usually a craft of some sort. They keep 20 % and sell 80% of the first crop, and the second they keep 60% and sell the rest. If they don't own land they can obtain their rice by helping others harvest theirs and receiving 10% of what they harvest for themself. The annual income is less than $1000 for rice farmers. Tourism is vitally important, with some of the most beautiful beaches attracting surfers and snorkeling and divers. The surfing is some of the best in the world.

This island is very poor and we did notice that sprinkled here and there were signs of new larger homes, and new developments of little town homes. Over the years, things are improving gradually and the old native homes were gradually being torn down and being replaced. This is a culture where people live very close to one another as they really do depend on one another for their agrarian life.

Science Fact: Lombok Strait, which has depths exceeding 3,600 feet (1,100 meters), has been called the edge of the Asian continental shelf. Also Gunung Rinjani has a large caldera with a crater lake, Segara Anak, 600m below the rim, and a new volcanic cone which has formed in the center. Rinjani last erupted in 1994, and evidence of this can be seen in the fresh lava and yellow sulphur around the inner cone.

44 23 Feb 2013 Komodo Island, Indonesia TR VX

Well, this is about as far east as we are going to get on this trip (but I’m going to keep the name of the posts the same to avoid confusion). As the saying goes, “it’s all downhill from here” and tonight we will be heading back towards Southampton (along a parallel path, but generally different ports of call). So far, this has been one heck of a trip and we look forward to the second half.

The Komodo dragon is an ancient species whose ancestors date back over 100 million years. The varanid genus originated between 25 and 40 million years ago in Asia.

The Komodo is long lived with an estimated life expectancy of over 50 years in the wild. These giant monitor lizards grow up to 10-12 feet and weigh up to 250 pounds. They have a flickering, long, forked tongue, long claws and leathery, thick skin. An adult Komodo can consume up to 80% of its body weight in one gorging. The Komodo can sprint briefly at 20 kilometers an hour. A Komodo dragon can break your leg, or knock you down with its massive tail. If bitten or scratched by the Komodo dragons claws or teeth, you must seek immediate medical attention because its saliva is extremely poisonous. While not technically venomous, the dragon’s saliva is home to a cornucopia of fast acting bacteria which will infect their prey and cause death within two or three days.

The Komodo is a stealth predator, which lies motionless and camouflaged alongside game trails for its prey, which include deer, boar, wild buffalo, the maleo bird, snakes, reptiles and small mammals. In an attack, the Komodo lunges at its victim with blinding speed and clasps it with the serrated teeth of the jaw.

The dragons like rotting meat the best. If they kill a deer or pig, they will let it rot in the heat & sun until it is "just right & tasty" to their liking. On the odd occasion people are also attacked by the Komodo dragon.

No one is allowed to the island without registering for a tour ahead of time. While many booked from the ship, we set ours up a with about twenty other passengers. Our tour was half of the price of the ship’s and had the added benefit of including a lunch and a snorkeling trip. As we entered the tender, small boys were standing up in small canoes (about two meters long and about ½ meter wide) and thrusting pearl necklaces for sale through the windows on the other side. We were at least a couple of kilometers from shore and these kids had paddled out to the ship despite the choppy water and high waves. We tendered to the pier and met our guides who warned us that no one with an open sore (or a number of other similar instances) should take this trip as the dragons have incredible senses of smell and would be attracted.

We began with a short hike of about ½ km to a water hole where a number of dragons were lounging in the sun. They appeared as lifelike as wooden models. From there we continued on the path and saw one walking along a little further on. The total trek was about 3 or 4 km and when over a small mountain to the Sulfurea Hill apex for a panoramic view. While there were no dragons sighted here, the going was a bit rough (especially since a number of the group was rather elderly, overweight or frail). Once we got back down, we stopped at a building for cold drinks and noticed a dragon basking next to it. Our walk then took us through a market where venders tried to sell us pearl necklaces (not great pearls, but certain worth the price which could be haggled down to very reasonable) and carved dragons.

As we walked back to the rangers station a number of deer walked down a parallel trail. A dragon shot out from under a building, passing within a few feet of a group of tourists and bit the hind leg of one of the deer. The speed of the attack was astonishing. Though the deer got away, it was limping and ran into the water (I’m not sure whether to escape the dragon or to rinse the wound). While dragons can swim, they prefer not to and it had time to kill (so to speak) as it will take a few days for the deer to die. As dragons only eat every week or two, this schedule would work out. Once the deer dies, it would be expected for a number of large dragons to share the feast (since the dragons are cannibals, if a small dragon showed up it is likely that it would become part of the feast instead of partaking in it).

We took small boats to a larger skiff which, in turn took us to a pristine beach with pink sand (with the only people in sight being a couple of pearl merchants). We were then shuttled in what could only be described as fiberglass bathtubs with motors to the shore. None of these boats had life preservers in evidence. As I staked out a shaded area, “our” beach was invaded by a number of Zodiacs carrying passengers wearing inflatable orange life preservers from an 80 passenger luxury cruise ship (Odyssey Clipper) along with their entourage of water haulers and accessory handlers. While they seemed a bit miffed to see the shade occupied by riff-raff like us, they didn’t take an aggressive attitude.

The coral reef near the beach was less than 2 meters deep and snorkeling was very easy. I got a chance to try out my waterproof camera and got some decent shots of a ray as it scampered away from me. After an hour and a half of swimming we were, once more, shuttled back to the larger boat to have lunch. While the food was very varied, it was pretty much tasteless. When I inquired why there was absolutely no spicing in the food, I was told that Westerners didn’t like their food spicy. They must be right because everyone else seemed to like the food. Maybe that’s why KFC is popular and I haven’t been in one in a couple of decades (except to use the internet abroad). There were a couple of kids on the beach who wanted to trade carved dragons for my diving mask saying that there were no masks on Komodo.

There is an auction tonight to help raise money for an orphanage at our next port, Ujang Padang. I spoke to the ship’s captain and have gotten permission for our friend’s kids to get a bridge tour when we dock in Singapore in a few days.

45 24 Feb 2013 Ujung Padang, Indonesia VX

Ujung Padang (named after the large local fort) is frequently called Makassar interchangeably.

There are two conflicting aspects to Makassar that I have to consider when writing this:

1) There is very little here to attract the tourist

2) We had more fun here, because of the friendly population, than almost any place else I can remember.

We started the day by walking past all of the guys offering various tour based transportation and, one outside the shipyard, getting into a metered cab. While we could have walked to our destination, Fort Rotterdam, in a half hour or 45b minutes, it was already beastly hot and the cab ride was less than two bucks. (A becak (bicycle-rickshaw) from there to the fort should cost around the same, but only fits two and seems a dangerous way to travel in the traffic here).

One of the best-preserved examples of Dutch architecture in Indonesia, Fort Rotterdam continues to guard the harbor of Makassar. A Gowanese fort dating back to 1545 once stood here, but failed to keep out the Dutch. The original fort was rebuilt in Dutch style after the Treaty of Bungaya in 1667. Parts of the crumbling wall have been left untouched, and provide an interesting comparison to the restored buildings. Inside Fort Rotterdam, Museum Negeri La Galigo keeps an assortment of exhibits.

Before we even entered the fort, we were intercepted by young boys who wanted to practice their English with native speakers. One of them actually had a pre-written script with a series of questions and recorded our answers to use in a class project with his friends (who crowded behind him). After spending a few minutes answering his questions (I was lucky that I had briefly read some historical and tourist information earlier in the morning so that I had a chance to sound at least a bit smart), he and his friends wanted to have their pictures taken with us in them (shades of China). As we walked through the fort (not a great attraction, but apparently about as good as it gets around here), this theme was repeated over and over, with children wanting to practice English and wanting to photograph us. Almost everyone we passed, regardless of age, seemed anxious to at least say “hello” or “how are you” to us as we passed. We did get the chance to walk through the museum (nice kriss knife collection, but otherwise not notable – though the locals seemed to like it) and then listen to a bit of a lesson. The was given in such heavily accented English that, other than recognizing the language, little was understandable (by me, though the students were taking notes, so they may be used to this sort of thing – and it may explain the quest for seeking out native English speakers as practice dummies). I felt like the Pied Piper as I wandered around with my tail of primary and secondary school children.

There was no feeling of potential pick pockets in the crowd and, likewise, no feeling that there was any ulterior motive other than kids having fun. While they all had phones, none were texting (though they did use them to record us, photograph us and use them as wrist watches, so I presume they know how to text but don’t feel the need if their friend is within shouting distance). It was fun watching kids actually acting like kids for a change.

We left the fort with an entourage of children which slowly peeled off as we headed towards a Chinese Temple, one of the other things to see in town. When we reached the building, we walked through the door and found ourselves in a parking garage decorated in the style of a Chinese temple. Three girls walked up and asked if we wanted to tour the temple (the most vocal of who, Mei-Mei, wore a tee shirt which said “I want your #1 boyfriend”. She was accompanied by her sister - whose Chinese name I forget, but it seemed to translate to “Junior”, and her sister’s friend). They took us upstairs, floor by floor, showing us the Taoist temple on the top floor, a Buddhist temple on the third floor and yet another on the second floor. They brought us drinks from the temple’s stock. While we carefully removed our footwear, the girls didn’t seem to bother and when we wanted to donate a bit, they told us not to and said “it only encourages them”. Mei-Mei vamped by wrapping herself around a dragon and put on sunglasses for a photo session by her companions (and us). Our friend Gerard asked her how old she was and she said 20. Later, when I spoke to her, it seems she had a year of high school to finish (her sister and friend were in college). She wants to be a nurse, but admitted that she “-sucks” (her word – she seems to have had an eclectic presentation of the English language) in biology, chemistry and mathematics. While she actually looked like she was 14, she had the keys to her mother’s car and later ended up driving the other two girls.

After leaving the temple (Mei-Mei used a word which sounded like “clinton” for them), we walked along the street chatting. She took us into a fruit market and conned them out of a bunch of red stickily fruit called a rambuttan whose innards tasted exactly like leechi, but which had a different name. When we walked out, she told me that she was also going to talk the nearby bakery out of free cakes for us, but I insisted on buying an assortment for all of us to share (each had a very sweet liquid hidden inside of dough balls covered in sesame or coconut).

Mei-Mei led our group to an even larger Chinese temple a few blocks away and then gave us a tour of the various floors of that one as well (this temple, like the first, was a composite of shrines to Buddha, Taoist demons and a variety of other gods and animals that I’m not as familiar with. She took us to a monk (or similar – not 100% sure of the title) who was writing good luck wishes on paper tags to hang on a tree covered in tens of thousands of these, glommed a handful to the tags and told us to write out our wishes and hang them on the tree. She told me that she is Moslem and “doesn’t believe in this stuff”, but seemed to be having a good time using the temple as a playground and the decorations as props for cute photos (never taking her sneakers off).

She apparently had to pick her mother up from the mall. To be honest, I thought the story about the car was some part of a complicated scam that this cute little girl with the big mouth was trying to maneuver us into. Back towards the first temple she opened a new SUV and asked if we wanted a lift to the mall. Well, earlier in my life, nothing would have given me more pleasure than to cram seven people in a car built for five with a bunch of teenage girls, but self-preservation trumped fantasy and we decided to walk to the mall. Along the way, nearly every person we passed, from street cleaner to cab driver said “good morning” to us and waved. The temperature was nearly 100F degrees (35C) and the humidity close to 100 percent so by the time we reached our destination (a walk of about 1km) we were balls of sweat (and made me wish I had taken the offer of a lift from Mei-Mei).

Karebosi Link is advertised as the first underground shopping center in Indonesia but is actually two multi-story malls joined by a series of underground passageways. I felt like a rock star here. It’s like we were the first non-Indonesians to ever set foot in the mall. Everyone said hello. Shopkeepers wanted their photos taken with us. Every person jumped at the chance to try their entire English vocabulary with us (usually only a couple of words). The two guys ate lunch (our two wives limiting themselves to bottled sodas). Gerard ordered a beef rib and rice dish which is typical of the area. I ordered a calamari with spicy chili sauce (around here this can be the equivalent to paint remover, but this one was actually very tasty – maybe I’m getting used to the heat?). We washed this down with iced coffee made with the local beans (and then I had a Coca Cola ice cream float for a buck – I feel like a kid in a candy store here).

While the two guys got one hour reflexology foot massages, the two ladies shopped a bit. Despite the very large number of small booth sized stores there’s not too much for Westerners to buy. While the batik and printed shirts are very attractive, my size is nearly impossible to find (I wear a large or XL in the US, but here my size is 4XL). Fabrics for those who sew (or want an unusual table cloth) are decent buys. Counterfeit handbags are plentiful, but the quality is not that great. So they came back empty handed and took our seats. We went to Courfores and bought a premium local coffee. Then I went to an electronics stand and bought a combination leather protective cover and Bluetooth keyboard for my Samsung Tab 2, 7 inch tablet. The cover only that it had was bought in Best Buy for about $30. This one was better made and included the keyboard for $19. Actually, it was bargained to 180,000 Rupiah, but as I’m conserving them a bit to spend the last ones as we leave Indonesia, I convinced the store to take the greenbacks. I pulled out three $5 bills and four $1 bills, all of which were soaking wet from sweat. They inspected each one to make sure they were without small tears and that they were no more than a couple of years old (otherwise it is generally felt in Asia that banks and money changers won’t accept them). I tested the keyboard at the store and as we walked away, the paper name label fell off it, Gerard asked ne how long the warranty is and I told him it had expired as soon as we walked away from the counter.

We picked up the girls after their massages and took a cab back to the ship for another couple of bucks.

Over the years I have had various countries or resorts advertised as “the place where everyone smiles” (or some such dibble). Today’s events proved that this is actually possible. Despite the abject poverty of many who live here and the breadth of people with various backgrounds, I am now convinced that it is possible to have a city where everybody smiles and tries their best to be your friend.

That evening, about 40 of the Indonesian crew members put on a folkloric show of musi, singing and dancing (including the Ramayama saga). This is pretty standard for Holland America with the details of the show dependent on the talents found in the crew.

Some of the passengers did the following and also enjoyed their experience:

The next place to visit is Lakkang, a village so close to the modern Makassar yet so isolated that no cars can enter the village as there is no road access. The only way to reach the village is by Pincara, a local name for a wooden raft made of two canoes joined together. Lakkang is a good example of Makassar's peasants. The houses are built on stilts. Your lunch will be provided by locals here. The available local dishes will be served. After lunch drive to Maros to visit Leang - leang the prehistoric caves. It is dated to about 3000 - 5000 BC. The cave wall printing came in the form of palm hands and endemic animals of Sulawesi. There is no evidence that such civilization has relations with present people who occupy the same area now. Proceed then to Bantimurung. It is a popular place for locals at the weekend and during the public holidays. There are also two caves here, Goa Mimpi (Dream Cave) and Goa Batu (Rock Cave), which you can walk into to see the stalactites and stalagmites. Bantimurung is known for its lush green vegetation, butterflies, waterfall and caves. Enjoy the nature beauty and then drive back to the Makassar port.

Historical information about this port:

Beginning in the sixteenth century, Makassar was the dominant trading center of eastern Indonesia, and soon became one of the largest cities in island Southeast Asia. The Makassarese kings maintained a policy of free trade, insisting on the right of any visitor to do business in the city, and rejecting the attempts of the Dutch to establish a monopoly over the city.

The trade in spices figured prominently in the history of Sulawesi, which involved frequent struggles between rival native and foreign powers for control of the lucrative during the pre-colonial and colonial period, when spices from the region were in high demand in the West. Much of South Sulawesi's early history was written in old texts that can be traced back to the 13th and 14th centuries.

The first European settlers were the Portuguese sailors. When the Portuguese reached Sulawesi in 1511, they found Makassar a thriving cosmopolitan entre-port where Chinese, Arabs, Indians, Siamese, Javanese, and Malays came to trade their manufactured metal goods and fine textiles for precious pearls, gold, copper, camphor and spices - nutmeg, cloves and mace imported from the interior and the neighboring Spice Islands of Maluku. By the 16th century, Makassar had become Sulawesi's major port and center of the powerful Gowa and Tallo sultanates which between them had a series of 11 fortresses and strongholds and a fortified sea wall which extended along the coast.

The arrival of the Dutch in the early 17th century, altered events dramatically. Their first objective was to create a hegemony over the spice trade and their first move was to capture the fort of Makassar in 1667, which they rebuilt and renamed Fort Rotterdam. From this base they managed to destroy the strongholds of the Sultan of Gowa who was then forced to live on the outskirts of Makassar. Following the Java War (1825–1830), Prince Diponegoro was exiled to Fort Rotterdam until his death in 1855.[3]

The character of this old trading center changed as a walled city known as Vlaardingen grew, a place where slaves were at the bidding of the imposing foreigners. Gradually, in defiance of the Dutch, the Arabs, Malays and Bugis returned to trade outside the grim fortress walls and later also the Chinese.

The town again became a collecting point for the produce of eastern Indonesia - the copra, rattan, pearls, trepang and sandalwood and the famous oil made from bado nuts used in Europe as men's hair dressing - hence the anti-macassars (embroidered cloths placed at head rests of upholstered chairs).

46 25 Feb 2013 At Sea
47 26 Feb 2013 Probolinggo, Java, Indonesia TR VX

Probolinggo is a city on the north coast of East Java, Indonesia. Like most of northern East Java, the city has a large Madurese population in addition to many ethnically Javanese people. It is located on one of the major highways across Java, and has a harbor that is heavily used by psycadelic painted fishing vessels.

Under the Dutch East Indies colonial administration, especially in the 19th century, Probolinggo was a lucrative regional center for refining and exporting sugar, and sugar

Here we have two choices- Mt. Bromo or the Ijen sulfur mines. We decided to jump in (or at least at) the volcano. While the cruise line offered this tour at $249 a head, it cost us $65 each plus 10 bucks for a horse.

As many of the locals around the volcano are Hinu, the name Bromo is a corruption of the Brahma caste. We took our down jackets, gloves, face masks and hiking boots to this one (though it turned out the temperature at the creast was about 50F or 10C, so we didn’t use the gloves and the light jackets were marginally overkill). The drive to Mount Bromo is around 2 hours. We reached the last village, Cemara Lawang and then took four wheel drive Jeeps the rest of the way to Mt. Bromo (low gear was requires on some parts of the road). We evaluated trekking the two KM to Mt. Bromo across a ravened wasteland of black volcanic ash, mud and horse manure and elected to rent small ponies (at $10 each round trip) and their handlers who walked through the mud leading the animals. Once you reach the cone of the volcano, we dismounted and were faced with 250 steps to climb (in a single slanted staircase) to reach the apex. The air had a strong sulfur smell and the volcanic ash dust covered our skin and hair with fine grit. The caldera was a bowl of steam. After some time at the top, we reversed the process, descended the stairs, rode the ponies back to Jeep, drove back to Cemara Lawang, switched vehicles and drove back to the port. We were going to try to plug in a bit of shopping, but just as we approached the central market it started to pour. We decided not to repeat the drenching of Bali and as soon as we were safely past the market the weather cleared up again. Maybe it was a signal? :- )

This evening the show consisted of a number of guests who showed off their talents as singers as well as a number of crew members who did the same (all from the Philippines, and all with fantastic voices).

48 27 Feb 2013 Surabaya, Indonesia VX

We are heading at a fast rate of speed to Surabaya as the last 20 miles are done at a slow speed because the clearance under the keel is about one meter over much of distance.

Surabaya (pronounced [sur?'baja]) is Indonesia's second-largest city with a population of over 2.7 million (5.6 million in the metropolitan area), and the capital of the province of East Java. It is located on the northern shore of eastern Java at the mouth of the Mas River and along the edge of the Madura Strait. The Battle of Surabaya galvanized Indonesian and international support for Indonesian independence during the Indonesian National Revolution against the Dutch after World War II. Surabaya is the location of the only synagogue in Indonesia, but it rarely obtains a minyan. There is also a Jewish cemetery in the city.

There’s no denying that Surabaya is big, noisy, polluted and intimidating. After the calm of rural East Java, it is pandemonium writ large.

We had originally planned on touring the city and seeing the mosques (Grand Mosque of Surabaya or Al-Akbar Mosque, the largest mosque in East Java and Cheng Ho Mosque, the first mosque in Indonesia built with Chinese-style architecture), churches, a Soviet built (then Indonesian Navy) submarine, the “Heroic Monument” and so on. Since the ship was scheduled to leave at 1PM, we simplified life by taking a cab to the zoo instead. While this zoo earned the disgust of environmentalists a number of years ago, they seem to have cleaned up their act and (at a couple of bucks) it is a very worthwhile place to visit. While they have the normal vast variety of animals of any major zoo, the Orangutans were particularly worth watching (and of course we saw more Komodo dragons from a closer distance than on Komodo Island).

(We were told that the House of Sampoerna is a cigarette museum, and also one of the factory of Sampoerna brand cigarette. It also provides a City Sightseeing bus for free (Surabaya Heritage Track) which operates daily with the particular schedule. It also provides an English tour guide for the sightseeing. We did not have time to research this, but metered taxis are cheap and even with the cab waiting for us at the zoo and then at a department store, the meter was less than $20 for the four of us – as we spent the last of our Rupiahs).

The port supplied an incredible troupe of dancers and musicians to great us when we arrived and say goodby as we depart Indonesia for Singapore.

We have been to many countries who claim to have people who smile all the time. We have found this to be generally the product of public relation campaigns, rather than reality. In the case of Indonesia, the people are universally smiling and friendly. While venders can get aggressive, even they will be smiling the whole time. While we have been to Indonesia before, we didn’t have enough time to deal with the people on a one to one basis very much. This trip has allowed us to interact far more frequently with local people in a variety of locations. While the country offers lots of good values on crafts for sale, wonderful beaches, unique sights to see and so on, it’s smiling population and their universal sense of humor belies the abject poverty many of them live in.


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