|Bogor – Tasikmalaya July 11-13
We flew to Jakarta in the morning and continued immediately by bus to Bogor. The smog we saw above Jakarta when landing by plane was quite shocking. Our first impression: so much traffic, so many people, everybody’s busy doing something. We had never realised that Indonesia, especially Java, was that densely populated. And, clearly, it is a step back again compared to Malaysia in terms of prosperity. Streets are full and dirtier; everybody is trying to make a little business and is active doing something. People are very friendly and cheerful; we also have been greeted in Dutch several times. The first two weeks of July is holiday season for the Indonesians, which means fully booked hotels, streets crammed full of cars, and overbooked busses and trains. Finding hotels our first few nights on Java has thus been a challenge. We ended up finding something nice in Bogor, and had dinner in a lovely restaurant with excellent views over the town.
The next day we left on a 2-day tour with a guide called Afif. We started the day by visiting 3 different family run businesses in the area of Bogor: a galong (gong) making factory, a krupuk factory, and a home where they make beautiful Wayang puppets, carved out of wood. We enjoyed this very much. Next we headed east by car, in the direction of Bandung over the 1500m Puncak pass. This is very scenic trip, with the road winding through tea plantations and terraced fields. Unfortunately, the scenery was a bit spoiled because of all the holiday traffic; the pass was basically one big traffic jam, and it took us hours longer then planned. We stopped at a tea plantation for a walk through the fields and enjoyed the lovely views. We drove through Cibodas and Bandung and had dinner and stayed overnight at Garut in a hotel with a bathroom equipped with water piped in from the hot springs. The children had fun bathing in it.
The second day we continued driving east. We stopped at a small village and walked around in the rice fields. The children of the village were very excited to see us and ran around us the whole way. Next we headed to the Gunung Papendayan, one of the most active vulcanoes in West Java. We hiked up for a little less then an hour to reach the loudly bubbling and steaming yellow crater, just below the summit. The last part of the path was riddled with bubbling mud pools, steam vents and sulphur deposits. It was an odd (and very smelly) and impressive experience to be on top of an active volcano (don’t worry, no danger).
In the afternoon we visited Kampung Naga, a beautiful traditional village and a museum piece of Sundanese architecture of village life. It is home to 110 families (houses are passed down within the family), who preserve the old ways of life: no electricity, cooking on wood fire, and shared bathroom in a secluded part of the river. They live of the rice they grow and handicrafts sold to tourists. We were the only tourists visiting (at that moment), and the whole atmosphere was very peaceful.
Arriving in Tasikmalaya we had a bit of a challenge to find a decent hotel room. The only place mentioned in the lonely planet was fully booked, and our guide had to drive and ask around quite some time to find us something. He was very helpful, and also arranged our traintickets to Yogyakarta for the next morning. We finally found a reasonable place, although very plain and basic (bathroom only with running water from a tab, a small bucket and standing toilet), and on request they changed some sheets that didn’t look very clean. But then hey, who cares, it was just for one night. All nights before, since we arrived in Indonesia, it had also been very basic, and you get used to it. Nobody spoke a word of English, by the way, and funny enough the only possible way of communication was by using some Dutch words!
But the night turned out to be a very long one! It was the absolute low of our 3 months travel. During the night first Jan-Rene got sick threw up, then Nadine through up all over the bed, and then finally I started throwing up as well. Thankfully Nadine went soundly back to sleep immediately, but Jan-Rene and I were very, very ill during the rest of the night: vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhoea. And all of this in this terrifically equipped bathroom! We had a ball … it was quite horrible, to be honest. The next morning we were still feeling sick and were wondering if we could manage to get on the train, when basically all we felt capable of doing was lying in bed. But, we needed to get some food for the kids, and we really wanted to get away from this place. So we pulled ourselves together, Saskia was a terrific help with getting things packed etc., and we somehow managed to drag ourselves to a supermarket and then got on the train, which thankfully was a comfortable ride and the kids behaved very well.
Yogyakarta Juli 14 – 17
Arriving in Yogya I was still more dead than alive, and of course the first 5 hotels we tried were fully booked. The taxi driver and his mate kept suggesting places that were not mentioned in our guide, saying: “very good, very cheap for you”. At a certain point, after already repeatedly having told him we wanted something a bit more upmarket because we were feeling ill, I yelled: “ I don’t want anything cheap, I want a place with clean sheets on my bed, towels, a toilet that I can sit on, and warm water coming out of a shower or at least a tub I can sit in!!!”. We finally found a nice hotel, went across the street for a quick dinner for the kids (we were not ready for food yet), and the whole family was in bed and asleep by 20.00hrs.
The next day we took it easy. The children enjoyed the hotel pool and small rock garden. Jan-Rene was feeling much better; I still needed the rest of the day to recover though. We hired two becaks for half a day, and had a leisurely time being cycled around the town. We visited the Kraton, the Palace of the Sultan, a small walled city within the city. We stopped at a batik factory where we had a tour of the batik making process. In the evening both Jan-Rene and I were almost fully recovered and ready for a meal again.
On our last day in Yogya we had another tour of the city (in a horse and wagon carriage this time). In the afternoon we went to see the Borobudur Temple, a colossal Buddhist relic built about 1200 years ago which has the status of a World Heritage site. It is built from 2 million block stones in the form of a massive symmetrical stupa. It is an impressive site, and we were lucky it was not too busy. We climbed up the different stairways and walked through the gateways. As soon we descented back from the temple, we fell victim again to the hundreds of local sales people desperate to sell you whatever kind of merchandise, which at some point becomes quite annoying. Jan-Rene always tries to sell them something as well, which makes them laugh and give up their otherwise never-ending pitch.
Bromo July 17-18
We decided to now head straight for Bali, in order to have more time there and on Lombok. Suddenly time was ticking and we realised the count down to our return day had started. The time we had left was comparable to a regular 3-week holiday. We could have flown from Yogya to Denpasar in 1 hour. We decided against it in view of the recent black listing of all Indonesian airlines by the EU. But, this meant 22 hours on the road instead, divided over two days with a stop over at the Bromo volcano. The first day was a full 10 hours drive in a mini van in non-stop traffic. It was a crazy drive, and we realised that flying most probably would have been a lot safer. We had a good driver, but still, we had some scary moments witnessing all the overtaking manoeuvres. At 19.30hrs we arrived high up in the mountains, and it was very chilly, not much more than 10-15 degrees. We stayed at a charming guesthouse (Yoschi’s Guesthouse), with picturesque little cottages and it felt like being in an Alpine environment. We slept under many thick blankets; it was something very different again. Jan-Rene had a very short night, since he got up at 03.30 to watch the sunrise at Gunung Bromo (2392m). Bromo is one of three volcano’s to have emerged from a vast crater, stretching 10 km across. The setting and scenery was beautiful, but also very busy. When arriving at the view point after a 45 min jeep drive, there turned out to be hundreds of people, the temp was 4 degrees, and it looked more like a crowded ice skating rink than anything else. After the hike up the mountain however, it was much more quite and he enjoyed the walk along the 1m ridge all along the crater (was I happy to be still sound asleep in my bed!).
After breakfast we continued or journey to Bali. We had to change to a touring bus, which arrived for pick up 2 hours late. It was another very long day by bus and on the ferry. At least the scenery during this part of the ride was much more rural and enjoyable. We finally arrived at Bali (Denpasar) at 23.00hrs (Bali time, 1 hour later), and quickly took a taxi to our hotel, which we wisely enough this time, had booked ahead. This was our very last long travel day of the 4 months. From now on, it will only be half day trips and easy boat rides!
Bali (Sanur) July 19-24
We are staying in Sanur, a small place at the South East coast of Bali at the Palm Garden hotel, which is just around the corner from the beach. A good choice, it is a lovely setting and we have a large suite, our biggest and most upmarket room (for a very reasonable 60us$) since the beginning of our trip. We are just hanging out here and doing nothing; pool, beach, eating (the food is fabulous, and our appetite is back!) is all we do. It is somewhat strange to be in a very tourist holiday environment again. The children have immediately met with some very nice Dutch children staying at the same hotel, and are having a lot of fun.
We did a tour around the southern part of the island, to see some of the other beach areas. The whole south of Bali is just one big holiday area. We went on a boat trip, did some swimming in the sea of the boat (no snorkelling, the fish have all been chased away by the loud water sport activities), and visited Turtle Island, a terrible tourist trap where you can see giant turtles and some other animals in captivity. The kids loved it though …
We spent some time at Dreamland. It is a perfect cove of a beach, surrounded by cliffs, and it is the up and coming spot for surfing. It used to be a remote surf break, but is now easily reached by driving though the vast and ugly development done by Soeharto’s son: multiple golf courses and hotel-condo’s, and large roads. But the secluded beach area is still very unplanned and simple and has a very cool atmosphere. The surf break here is amazing; the undercurrent is so strong, that swimming is prohibited. The power of the waves was like nothing I have ever seen before. We had a great time watching the surfers, and playing and running through the broken waves.
Lombok – Mataram & Peduli Anak July 25-26
Early in the morning we left Sanur and boarded the local ferry to Lombok at 09.00. We departed a little late, and the trip took about 4 hours. It was much better than we had expected, we had been told it was all very dirty and smelly, but it really wasn’t bad at all. Clearly we were back in the back packers scene, which was nice.
We arrived at Lembar and took the bus to Mataram, the capital of Lombok. No tourists here, but it wasn’t easy to find a hotel, since a lot of conferences were going on. We finally found something reasonable and went for walk around in the centre and had an early dinner.
The next morning we took of by taxi to visit the Peduli Anak Foundation (PAF). After 30 min driving the driver stopped at a NGO that turned out to be located only 500m away from where we had left off. Thankfully the people at this NGO were very friendly and helped us to settle the dispute with the taxi driver that followed because we refused to pay the bill.... After this we chartered a new taxi driver, who this time really new how to find it.
The foundation is situated between the rice fields amid a beautiful setting, and is set up very spaciously. A few staff members warmly welcomed us, while most of the children were just returning on the premises from school. The PAF is currently giving shelter to 38 street-children. Most of them are now going to a regular school; some of them attend the special school on the premises. Chaim Fetter, founder and operational manager of the PAF, showed us around and gave us lots of background information on the PAF. It is impressive to see how much they have achieved in such a short time!
We had lunch together with the children; they are such a cheerful and heartedly bunch of kids. Even though communication with them was limited because of the language barrier, this was largely compensated by body language. They all loved talking to and touching our children, showing them their rooms or just looking and smiling at them. They regularly get to meet with foreign grown-ups, but not often with foreign children. After lunch we presented the “donation-cheque” of Euro 1550,=, for which we received a big cheer and many happy faces! After listening to the children’s’ wishes and input, and some consultation between the staff, this is what they decided to spend the money on:
- The tuition fee for an English teacher during one year
- A dictionary each of the children
- Purchase of needed (school) clothing items for some of the children
- An afternoon out for the kids (the first one in 6 months time): a trip to the local mall, where each child would receive 10.000 rp (= euro 0.80) to spend on a game/ice-cream/toy.
No need to tell you how happy they looked especially when their “mall” wish was granted. It brought tears to my eyes. After a very rewarding day and another lifetime experience for our children, Chiam gave us a lift to Singigi where we spent the night.
On the way to Singigi, while driving though the villages and the fields, we started to notice the great beauty of Lombok. That same evening we decided to arrange for a three day tour around the central and northern part of the island, before heading to the Gili’s.
North and Central Lombok July 27-29
We hired a car and a driver (public transportation is not frequent and doesn’t leave the main road) and we had 3 very nice days: beautiful scenery, sparsely populated areas, very few tourists, and pitoresque craft villages, with many mosques along the way, and a lot of tobacco plantations.
The first day we drove about 3-4 hours in total, stopping at several villages where we had an introduction to pottery (with local black clay) and hand weaving. We stayed overnight at Wisma Soedjono, high up in Tetebatu, in two small cottages, with a veranda from where we had stunning views over the plantations, and while we listened to all the prayers coming from different locations in the valley, we quietly sipped our beer and soaked up the whole scenery.
The next morning we walked around the surrounding plantations for1-2 hours. We saw tobacco, cacao, nootmuskaat, kruidnagelen, vanilla, chili’s, rice, and coffee, black pepper. It was unbelievable to see and smell all these well-known spices and plants just within walking distance from each other.
We continued our ride to the east and further up north passing through nice villages up into the area of the Gunung Rinjani (3762m); this mighty volcano that is towering over the entire northern part of Lombok is the second highest mountain in Indonesia. The scenery was changing, and so was the vegetation. In this area they grow onions, garlic and long beans. You can make a 3-5 day trek with porters to the top of the Rinjani, but that was not for us (regret was readable in Jan-Rene’s eyes….). We stayed overnight in Senaru, a small village along a ridge with sweeping views to the east and the south.
The next morning we did a short walking trail of 1-2 hours from the hotel to the Air Terjun Sindang Gila waterfall, where many locals were taking a “shower”. We walked back through the fields along the irrigation system, after which we continued with the last part of our ride via Bayan to Bangsal, where we cought the 14.00 hrs boat to Gili Meno.
Gili Meno July 29 – August 3
The Gili Islands are a vision of tropical paradise – a trio of tiny coral fringed islands, just of the northwestern coast of Lombok, with white sandy beaches and turquoise water, and free of cars and motorcycles. Gili Meno is the quietest and smallest of the three (you can walk around the whole island in 1-1,5 hrs), and, some say, the most beautiful. For sleeping you have the choice between approximately 20 different places, all with just a few different styles and sorts of cottages/bungalows, mostly spread along the beach line. There is absolutely nothing else to do here, but relaxing on the beach, swimming and snorkelling, and enjoying a drink and/or a meal. It is very, very quiet. We have a classy, spacious and stylish bungalow with a colonial feel, set in a coconut grove just off the beach. This is where we are going to spend 6 days of the remaining 9 days of our trip, before returning back to Holland.
We had a wonderful time on Gili Meno. The weather was a bit unstable (a lot of wind), which made snorkelling right of the beach rather difficult and the water was quite muddy. The children felt very much at home; the island is so small and quiet. We almost felt embarrassed if the children were being a bit noisy on the beach … There were also a lot of kittens to take care of (they considered this a major responsibility; we ended up having three little kittens running around in our cottage).
Walking around the island along the beach
Chilling on the beach at sunset!
Bali, Ubud August 4-7
We left Gili Meno at 07.00 with a pre-booked transfer straight to Ubud. We chose this slightly more expensive option in order to save some time, but it nevertheless still took us 8 hours all together to get there. Boat to Lombok-Bangsal, bus from Bangsal to Sengigi, boat to Padangbai, and finally bus to Ubud. And, a bit as we expected, many hotels were fully booked. But this time we were lucky; the fourth one we tried had one nice, spacious family room left. Just what we were hoping for: nothing too fancy, but very comfortable, located right in the centre of Ubud, just of the main road, in a superb landscape overlooking a rice paddy field, and two pools appearing to cascade over those fields.
Ubud is a very nice town. Unsurprisingly very touristy, with the rich culture, many activities and beautiful surroundings it has to offer. And despite the fact that it currently is the peak season, it still has a very calm and pleasant atmosphere. Just 5 minutes by bicycle and you are out of town, and you find yourself in the middle of the hills, or on a ridge between two rivers, overlooking beautiful rice fields and valleys with small villages. Too bad we only have three days left ….
Our first day was a shopping day, purchasing our last souvenirs and soaking up the atmosphere of the market and playing the bargaining game. And we enjoyed the delicious food here.
On our second day we decided to see some of the surroundings of Ubud. I suggested a hike, but the rest of the family wanted to rent bikes. So we biked on a hike trail ….. well, that is to say: we walked up-hill and biked down-hill …. It was tiring, but fun though. And we enjoyed the beautiful scenery around us.
In the evening we went to see one of the many traditional dance performances (the Kecap, or monkey dance) in a small village 10 min drive from Ubud. It was very nice and the children were amazed to see a man dancing through burning coconut shells.
Today (aug 7) we are spending our last day in Ubud, and will are flying to Jakarta at 23.00 hrs. Tomorrow we will spend the day in Jakarta and leave on our flight back home to the Netherlands at 18.45 hrs. We will be arriving at Schiphol on August 9 at 05.40 hrs. Our journey is (almost) over; it has been an unforgettable, unbelievable, just great experience that we will cherish forever!!!
Jakarta & back home, August 9, 2007
Our flight from Bali to Jakarta was delayed 2 hours, and by the time we arrived at our hotel in Jakarta it was 03.00. While driving through the city late at night we could notice how many people live on the streets in this city...
We slept in the next morning, had lunch at a shopping mall, after which it was time to head back to the airport to catch our return flight home. The journey went smoothly, with a quick stop-over at Kuala Lumpur, and we arrived at Schiphol airport at 05.30 hrs, where we were picked-up by the very relieved grandpqrtens opa en oma Dolfing.
Our journey is over, it is hard to believe. It has been extraordinary. We have so many memories and stories to share. Would we do it again? YES, FOR SURE !! Will we?...I hope so!
Before going back to school and starting up our family life again in the Netherlands, the children and I spent a week at my mothers home in Beaumes de Venise (S-France). We ate, slept, enjoyed the pool and the sun, a wonderfully relaxing week. On August 20 the kids started their (new) school-life in Holland, and Jan-Rene and I were preparing to move back into our house.