On October 14, I started a nice trip to Indonesia. To be precise, a tour through Java and Bali. After a long flight with a transfer in Medan, we arrived in Jakarta where our guide, Nugi, was already waiting for us. The rest of the day we tried to recover from the long flight. I did, however, go into town to get a taste of the atmosphere. Jakarta is, like many Asian cities. hectic crowded and smoggy through the exhaust from the cars and - especially - the immense amount of motorbikes and scooters driving around.
The tour really started the next day. We left for Bogor. Here one can find the largest and most famous botanical garden in Indonesia. Local guide yok us on two-hour walk through parts of these beautiful gardens. After this we continued towards Bandung. Along the way we made a stop at a tea plantation and we drove over the Puncak pass to Bandung where we arrived in the early evening. The hotel was located in the nice and lively city centre of Bandung so finding a nice restaurant to eat was no problem.
The next day we explored Bandung, a city where the influence of the Dutch colonial past is still clearly visible. We started in the old cinema (now conference room and theatre), which seems to be constructed in a tropical version of the Amsterdam school architectural style. After this we followed our way on foot to the old postal road, which ran right through Bandung and over more than 1000 km from west to east across Java, We then visited the Kampong, an old neighbourhood with narrow alleys, here we also visited a workshop where Wajang dolls are made. After a visit to the Concordia society and the Afro-Asian convention museum, we walked back to the hotel. After lunch we visited a shopping mall before returning to the hotel.
The next morning we had to get up early for our train journey (the first of the two) to Yogyakarta. We drove to the station. After checking in we walked to the platform where the train was already waiting. The train journey was very beautiful and, more can be seen than from the road, we could see the rural life that we passed. On the main roads you normally find almost continuous houses and shops, making wide views over the country side almost impossible. On the train, however, we passed Sawas with the volcanoes in the background. At the Sawas we often saw people at work. Just after 3 p.m. we arrived in Yogyakarta where we had the rest of the afternoon off. We spent the night in the Indoluxe hotel where we had a beautiful view from the roof to the city and the Merapi volcano (which had erupted a few days earlier). In the evening we visited the Ramayana ballet (actually an opera) with a number of people. The Ramayana story is a love story, it is the Hindu version of Romeo and Juliet with a better outcome, however.
The next day we visited the Prambanan temple, an ancient Hindu temple from the 9th century. The huge complex with its many towers has been in restoration for over a century. Restoration of each of the temples only happens when 75 percent of the original building material have been recovered. So it's a hell of a job! We visited both the Hindu and Buddhist temples that can be found on this site. After this we drove to the Borubudur. Along the way we stopped at a rice field on the lower slope of the Merapi, where people were working. Here we also had a view of the Merapi itself, which at that time showed small ash eruptions. The Borubudur itseld is located beautifully in the rainforest. This temple complex from the 9th century is also a masterpiece in ancient Buddhist architecture. The stairs (with high steps to 'force' people to 'bow' down) takes you to the top of the monument with fantastic views of the surrounding rainforrest. After visiting this impressive monument, we drove back to the hotel.
The next morning we first went to a Batik workshop where artworks and wall decorations are made from batik fabric. This was followed by a tour with the Becak (moter rickshaw) through the city to the Sultan Palace. We visited this palace where Gamelan performances were also held. After a visit to the water palace (the royal swimming pool) we drove back to the hotel where we took a dip in the pool on the roof of the hotel.
The second train journey of this trip followed next morning. Again we had to get up early to catch this train. It was – again - a nice train journey that brought us to Malang. We enjoyed the wide views over the rice fields and volcanoes. Before we arrived in Malang, we passed the Colour village, a neighbourhood in Malang where all the houses, streets and bridges were painted in cheerful colours. After arrival we made a short tour through this green city before getting some rest at the hotel
This rest was really necessary for the excursion that started in the middle of the night and that would be the highlight of the trip for me! The Bromo Tengger Semeru national park. Here you find the Bromo volcano, named after the Hindu god Brahma, god of creation. This volcanic massif is a complex of 6 volcanoes (two of which are active) grouped in and around a large caldera, the Sand sea. We left at 1 AM and arrived at 3 AM at the base of the volcano. Here we transferred to jeeps that brought us into the national park. First, to a view point where we had a beautiful view over this impressive volcanic landscape. The colours and shadows changed continuously as it became lighter and sunrise was nearing. After the sunrise, we took our breakfast (which we had taken from the hotel) and we continued our way down into the sand sea. Here , we needed to hike and climb about 2.5 kilometers to the edge of the Bromo crater. An impressive view, both into the crater and over the sand sea and the beautiful Batok volcano. Around noon we were back at the hotel and we took our time to recover from this very impressive experience (and we could also wash about kilos of volcanic ash from our hair and face.
The next morning we continued our trip on to Ketapang. Along the way we stopped at a tobacco drying farm and a plantation. Here you can see how cocoa, coffee, rubber, cinnamon, ginger, vanilla and many other spices are grown. After lunch and a hike around the plantation, a small dance performance was given for us. After this we continued to Ketapang where we arrived well before sunset. So there was still time for a dip in the pool.
The next day we took the ferry to Bali. After an hour of sailing we got on the bus again which took us to Denpasar in about 5 hours. Here the group was split up. Most people including me stayed in Kuta and eight people stayed in Sanur. That same evening, however, I received an email that the trip to the blue fires of the Ijen volcano was cancelled because the volcano was closed due to the forest fires on its flanks. That was very unfortunate and I will have to go back sometime to make this special trip another time.
The next morning it was time to plan my activities for the next four days. This because I wanted to go and see Bali. The Kecak dance was something I long wanted to visit, it plays a major role in the Baraka film and has long intrigued me. So we rented a car and driver from the hotel. With a group of five people we drove to Uluwatu. Here, there is a beautiful temple with an impressive view of the sea. An amphitheatre was built in this complex where the Kecak dance takes place at sunset, It has been set up around the earlier mentioned Ramayana story. Although the theatre was completely packed and we had to sit on the ground, it was a very impressive show. It almost feels like a ritual that unleashes the primal force in man.
The next day we visited two waterfalls in the Ubud area. Here you could take a dip in the fresh water under the waterfall. After this we visited another herb garden but with a coffee tasting where we could taste the famous Luwak coffee, apart for dome other coffee blends. The beans from this coffee are first fermented in the stomach of a Civet cat and then roasted after the cat has pooped them out, then they are washed and peeled. In the afternoon we arrived at the hotel where we spent the rest of the afternoon in the swimming pool and enjoyed a nice beer.
The next day brought me to the east of Bali. We first visited the Pura Goa Lawa temple. Here is a bat cave and temple where we attended a prayer service. Then we drove further north to the flank of the Gunung Agung volcano (which still emits gas) and visited the Taman Air Tirta Gangga water palace of Amlapura. It is a beautiful park with ponds, baths and an eleventh-century temple. All this under the ‘smoke’ of the Agung. On the way back we visited a small salt extraction plant where salt was harvested by evaporating sea water. Here we also saw a glimpse of the beautiful black beaches in Bali.
The last full excursion day brought us to the central part of Bali. First we visited a Barong dance performance that was interwoven with a story between good and evil. After this we drove to the Pura Tirta Empul, the spring temple where holy water flows out of the ground. Here one can bathe to cleanse the mind. Here too, there is praying and meditating throughout the day. We continued our trip and slowly climbed upto the flanks of the Batur caldera until we reached the edge of the caldera itself. Here we had lunch with a beautiful view of the Batur, Abung and Agung volcanoes. On the way back we did – again - a coffee tasting at a location with a beautiful view over the rainforest of Bali. At the beginning of the evening we returned to the hotel.
The next morning, it was all about relaxing and packing. At the end of the afternoon we were picked up and dropped off at the airport to take our flight back to Amsterdam. It was a long flight (in total we were on board the aircraft for 17.5 hours, despite the stopover in Medan where we had to stay inside the aircraft). The flight went mostly according to plan and by 9 AM the next morning we arrived in Amsterdam Schiphol and I was home around 10:30 am. End of a wonderful journey!