Saturday, May 26, 2012


The fastest way to go from Yogyakarta to Jakarta is by train. The luxury executive train may lack elegance (and speed) but it's certainly spacious and comfortable. Eight hours of rural panoramas of Java: endless rice paddies, little villages, lakes, and green hills in the background.

Jakarta continues to fail to enamor me. Not only does the train pass through dirty slums, full of garbage, dirt, and lean-tos built from tarps and rusted corrugated metal, but downtown is still the soulless traffic-choked concrete jungle I knew from my previous visit. On the other hand, like Yogyakarta there are quiet green, if rather dilapidated, neighborhoods in the middle of the large blocks formed by the main streets.

I am here only for the airport to catch a very early flight to Sulawesi tomorrow.

Friday, May 25, 2012


Java isn't like Bali, it's more like Indonesia. Gone are the posh resorts, the vans with tinted windows, the busloads of Australians invading temples like cellphone-wielding locusts, and the westernized malls. Yogyakarta, or Jogja as it's called here, has no synthetic attractions and caters mostly to locals. Very refreshing. Much cheaper too.

Rented a becak - a bicycle rickshaw, see photo - for the afternoon to show me around the various neighborhoods. Jogja's main streets are not beautiful; life happens in the little alleys that are not shown on any map. Old ladies bbq satay squatting on the ground, people sit in front of their houses to make the silver and batik souvenirs sold on Java's markets, and children play soccer pretending to be Bayern München. I skipped the usual tourist attractions like Borobudur, you can read up on those way down in this blog.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

North Bali

I have been to Bali before but never to the northern end. They have some pretty major mountains and a volcano there. The water temple is on a lake at 1200 meters. The temples themselves are not accessible but they have a big platform where monks do a sort of brief pray-in, scheduled by a guy with a bell and a megaphone.

Also saw some massive waterfalls deep in the forest, and could swim there. Also at some natural hot springs. Water falling from high up is like a massage...

They also have a Buddhist temple, the only one on Bali and very large, which would be tranquil and serene if a tour bus hadn't unloaded a herd of loud French tourists apparently working out the thing with taking off shoes in temples for the first time and having a ball of it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Bali again

Time to leave the Gilis... The speedboat I had booked promptly broke down before it could leave, and we had to wait for another one. In Indonesia such things are not a reason to get upset. The minibus that brought us from the harbor to our destinations got stuck in Denpasar's traffic maelstrom, no news here either.

Bali can actually be very nice provided you stay away from Kuta, Bali's mass tourism hell. Still too much in relax mode to do much today, but I'll be on tour tomorrow.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Island life

The Gili islands are wonderfully relaxing, but after a while it does get a little tiring if every local I talk to drops into that signature whisper after a minute: hashish? Ecstasy? Cocaine? "Super duper mega radical maximum fuckin' bloody fresh magic mushroom", end quote?

Just a block behind the beach promenade, the locals have their houses and real life begins.

Now I am waiting for my barbecued red snapper at a fancy dinner restaurant, sitting at the edge of the sea, sipping a sublime guava-pineapple-mint juice. It's not all pizza and spaghetti.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Shrooms, boss?

Drugs are illegal in Indonesia so you have to promise the dealers not to report their offers. Enforcement seems a little lackluster.

Gili Tralala

There's three tiny islands off the coast of Lombok, called the Gilis. Small green jewels, quiet, wooded, no motor traffic, endless beaches. Gili Trawangan has the most visitors and the occasional party, so people call it Gili Tralala. I got a traditional hut in a very nice resort. The island is small enough to walk around in an hour or two, to escape the huddle of beach restaurants and dive outfits at the harbor.

The harbor is not quite like Rotterdam: boats simply run up the beach and guests must wade ashore.