Another song that matched my mood and the situation in this video perfectly.
What am I talking about? Read more here.
Another song that matched my mood and the situation in this video perfectly.
What am I talking about? Read more here.
I recently came to an important realization. I won’t see snow this year. Of course this is never certain, but usually, at least there is hope. In Jakarta there is no hope. No hope at all.
What I will see, is rain. A lot of rain. Flooding the city kinds of rain. But that’s okay. Because my life is awesome.
Every time I tell people my plans for the coming weeks, months (year!) I still almost cannot believe this is my life. I am doing so many amazing things, seeing so many great places and meeting tons of lovely people. Even though I was living towards this part of my life for quite some time, It still didn’t seem real. But it is real. And I never want it to stop.
And the great plans keep on coming. Besides the global planning I already had, I have some more concrete ideas about what I want to do when I travel through Southeast Asia. The trips that I have planned in December are approaching rather quickly and even my ‘regular’ days in Jakarta are great.
I feel so grateful being able to do all of this and I feel like I’m learning something new every day (and not just words in Bahasa Indonesia, although… that too). It’s already such a great experience and the best part is…
I’m nowhere near finished.
This past weekend I have visited the magical town of Dieng, Indonesia. Let me tell you, there is a lot of natural beauty here. I took so many pictures and love to watch them over and over again, and dream away. You can find them here.
It all started on a Friday afternoon. The itinerary said to be at the meeting point at six, and we would leave at seven. I was already prepared to take this schedule with a grain of salt, and planned to be there at seven at least, but when I looked out the window in the end of the afternoon, there was a major storm going on. The rain came poring down, and even though the sun sets at 6 pm, it was already completely dark outside at 5 pm that day.
So, I decided to go earlier. I ordered a gojek and was a little bummed that i would get completely soaked, but I made my peace with it. When I got downstairs, however, the gojek driver had a rain-cape for me! It didn’t completely keep me dry, but at least I wasn’t soaking. The trip only took me 15 minutes, so I was there even before six. There was nobody there.
At six: Nobody.
Half an hour later: Nobody.
At some level I knew that this was probable, but I still got worried. I called the two organizers: no answer.
Finally, at ten to seven, one of them arrived. Of course she got stuck in traffic, and so did a lot of other participants. Eventually we left around eight. Got to love Indonesia.
I was afraid the bus would be a wreck and sleeping through the night was not an option, but it turned out to be a really fancy bus. Even though I sat in the middel of four seats, which was a bit uncomfortable, I slept through most of the trip.
We saw some sights on the first day and although I loved seeing all the nature, it felt a bit weird to be on the trip by myself. It was an organized tour and everybody had a companion. Besides that, everybody spoke Indonesian. So I felt a tad secluded at some moments, but there were also people who spoke English and it gave me the opportunity to practice my Indonesian.
The local guys of Dieng were really nice, but when I introduced myself to them, they immediately gave me another name. Juminten. Apparently this is an old traditional Javanese name and everybody called me that during the weekend.
Another thing I learned during this trip, is that there is no need to be ashamed of taking selfies during a trip in Asia. Everybody does it. Proudly. I told the female tourguide that in Europe it was something to be a little giggly and embarrassed about. Here, it is the most normal thing. Not only that, but there were SO MANY grouppictures. We had to do a group shot everywhere. And not just one. Oh no, we had to make one with everybody’s camera.
It took so long and there were so many. At one point I started taking pictures of the picture takers. Ha. Got ya.
According to the program, the next day we would get up in the middle of the night and leave to climb up to a hill, from where we would see the sunrise. I went to bed very early (around 8 pm) and set my alarm. It was 2 am when we woke up and without any breakfast (or even water) we left to go to the hill. I think I wasn’t completely awake yet, because of course I had to eat something, even though it was not arranged. Or at least have a drink. But I didn’t really think about it until later and we were already on the road. After driving through empty and silent mountain roads, we arrived at a place that was bustling with people. Guess we were not the only ones to watch the sunrise.
We were told to bring a flashlight and warm clothes. It was cold, but it was okay for my thick Dutch skin and once we started walking uphill, I became rather warm quickly. The beginning was okay, but the trek was tougher than I had imagined. Not only was it completely dark, it was also very misty, which created a wet slope to walk on. I kept going and figured we would arrive soon, because the guy told us it would only be around 30 minutes.
We walked and climbed about an hour and I slipped once, causing me to glide down in the mud. Well, I’m not one to let that get me down, but I was a bit scared going further and I so was ready to sit down and see this damned sunrise already.
Finally we were sort of on top and someone told me we had arrived. I plopped down on the ground (I was already dirty, so whatever) and waited, but then they told me we were going to another hill nearby. He pointed in the distance to some walking flashlights and it looked so far away. Too far. And when we walked in that direction, we already had to pass a slippery slope (no pun intended) and I was just not up for it.
Not only was I a little tired, I felt nauseous and a little dizzy. Guess I should have eaten. I asked the guy leading us if it was okay if I stayed on this hill and watched the sunrise from there. It was okay.
So I stayed.
And I sat down.
And I felt really, really sad.
I don’t know why, it sort of overcame me. And thinking back to it now, it seems a bit surreal. Here I was, sort of on top of this great mountain, in the middle of freaking Indonesia, living the freaking dream. And I was sad? Really?
A feeling of terrible aloneness came over me, seeing all these people together. I felt like I was left out a bit, even though I chose to stay behind. And one of the guys who led the tour even stayed with me, and sat nearby. We didn’t really speak, but he was still there with me. What may also have played a small part is that I had been without an internet connection the past two days, which made me unable to vent about the experiences to my friends (or my mommy). I told myself to snap out of it, but in that moment I even wondered if traveling alone was a good idea if it was gonna be like this. Well, without elaborating any more, let’s just say it was a very depressing moment. I got even more annoyed when the sun did start to rise and everybody was taking selfies and I was in the background. Even on this touristic site I was the only white blond girl and I felt like a monkey in a cage. This feeling grew when two girls asked me to take a selfie with them. When I got back to the guy, the female tourguide was there too. I suppose she just arrived. She said: let’s go to the other hill! The sun was already up a bit and it was light outside now. I don’t know what exactly the guy and girl said to each other in Indonesian, but I gathered that he told her I had a little trauma, which even then, I thought was a tad funny. She told me it really was not far and the road was not tricky and now that it was light, I could see she was right. So she took my one hand and the guy took my other, and we slowly went in that direction. The path was not hard, at all.
When we saw the group, they were already heavy into one of the main activities of this trip: taking pictures. Once we reached them, one of the tourguides yelled something that I could only interpret as: “clap your hands for Juminten”, because the next thing I know, they did. It felt like my birthday. And it felt like I was part of the group. I felt even more stupid for my teeny tiny breakdown earlier and smiled on each of the selfies they wanted to take with me.
I hope if you took the time to read this long story, it was not uninteresting for you. In all honesty, I mostly write this blog for my future self, and I wanted her to remember this, which is why I was so elaborate.
I guess the lesson I got out of this is that a lot of the world we live in, consists only in our heads. I felt like I was left out of the group, while in reality, I had a really special role in it. I felt like the path ahead was going to be hard, and really it was not.
My mind told me traveling alone was a bad idea and I should want to go home. But in reality, I really don’t want to go home.
There is an Indonesian song about me.
Here it is.
Let’s look past the fact that it is originally about a boy and just focus on my awesome colleagues who sang me this song while we were doing karaoke.
The morning starts the same every day: with the horrific sound of my alarm clock and me snoozing at least three times. Next, I get up. I go into my bathroom and if I am unlucky, there is no water. I don’t know how this happens, but I have spent two mornings rather cranky because I could not take a shower. But, as the positive person I am, I choose to be grateful for all the other days I do have water.
I live in a “kost” which is a boarding house. I have a room with ac, a double bed (heaven) and a private bathroom. The boarding house is run by four or five amazing women who spend all day working. The service in a place like this is amazing: let me give you some examples.
They clean my room, every day. In the beginning they also made my bed, but I didn’t like this because I had to arrange the pillows every time, so with the help of my colleagues I wrote them a note, telling them I loved the service, but if they please could leave the bed as is (did I mention they don’t speak any English?) Anyway, they clean. All the rubbish I collect in a day, I put in a bin outside. Also, every day they will wash four pieces of clothing for me – by hand. And there are about 30 rooms in the place, so you do the math.
After I am showered and ready, I get my clean clothes from the hallway and walk out the door. When I am out of the front gate, I make my way to work. I walk, and it takes me about 25 minutes. In the time here that I wasn’t able to walk anywhere, let alone walk 25 minutes to work, I went to work with a grab-bike. It is this amazing application, where you enter where you are and where you want to go, and what do you know, next thing a motorbike driver shows up at your location and takes you to said location. All for the sweet low price of 15.000 rupiah (1 euro. Let me repeat: 1 euro!!!). It may be needless to say I use this a lot. It is so much quicker than a taxi. The only downside for a bule (foreigner) like me is the fact that they usually call you to verify your booking and check to see where you are. The drivers often don’t speak English either, so this occasionally causes some confusion. Sometimes I answer the phone and all they say is: ‘sebentar ya?’
Okelah pak. And I hang up. This, I can do. If they ask me where I am, I can also still answer. But any follow-up questions cause major confusion on my side and I have to look for someone to take the phone and explain to the driver where he has to go. If I am with a friend I just let them answer the phone right away, which is much easier. Although, one time when a guy answered the phone for me, the driver was a bit surprised when I showed up.
The first thing I do in the office is have some breakfast. When I first got to this neighbourhood, I used to go to the supermarket and buy a lot of mangos, sometimes pineapple or watermelon. I would get up in the morning, cut everything up and eat it. But the longer I was here, the later I wanted to get up. So the next step was cutting everything up, putting it in plastic containers, and taking it with me to work. But during the time I couldn’t walk, the supermarket was a challenge I wasn’t ready for, and because of the one-way traffic the driver arrived at my office from the other side of the building, taking a different route. And on the way there, we passed like three different fruit carts! The fruit is already cut in pieces and even cheaper than in the supermarket! So now, every morning, I walk to work with a small detour, and I buy fruit. The price, you may ask? IDR 3.000 per piece. I usually buy six, so I pay delapan belas ribu rupiah (18.000 rupiah). Oh my god, you are so fast with comparing it to the Grab-bike ride! Indeed, it is a little bit more than a euro.
The workday differs. Usually we all hang out in the office, do some work. Sometimes the concentration is gone for a while, and then there is a lot of talking and laughing. If the internet doesn’t work, we have to resort to other measures, such as playing a game (werewolves/mafia, for instance).
During lunch, we have three options. Well, there are more options, but these are the three we use often. We can either go next door, where I always get gado-gado, which is so good there! We can also go to
RNI (I don’t know what it stands for), which is a bit of a longer walk (5 minutes instead of 2). We go there often because of the chicken guy. I won’t elaborate on that. And lastly there is the third floor of our building, when we get sick of these two options. But sometimes we also go somewhere further away. To a mall nearby, for instance. Usually I don’t pay more than 15.000 rupiah for lunch (do you see a pattern?)
The food here is great. So great. I may have mentioned this before, so I will just say this: the food here is great. Sangat enak sekali!
In the middle of the afternoon, around three, the smell of fried deliciousness penetrates the office doors and with great enthusiasm we walk to the other side of the hallway to buy gorengan. It is food that is fried and there are a lot of variations. It is a great mid-day snack and tastes so good. The guy always jokes by replacing the word thousand with million when talking about prices, which causes a few giggles. It is a great distraction from the workday and because he is not here everyday, it is always a nice surprise.
After work, I go to a nearby hotel that is on the way to my house, where I do some exercise in the gym or I swim (in the pool). Afterwards I go into the sauna and relax. And I am revived after a shower and ready for the evening.
I usually get some food in my neighbourhood, either at a food court, or at one of the many warteg (small restaurants, kind of buffet style). I always get it to go, because I cannot let go of my habit to eat while watching a tv-show. And I’m sure you already guessed it. The food: never more than 15.000 rupiah (1 euro).
On some nights, I don’t go home, but I eat with friends and hang out somewhere. A couple of times I went to the cinema here. The caramel popcorn is to die for and the velvet class is totally worth the money. See the picture below. Even for a bed like this, you pay less than a cinema in The Expensive West.
Conclusion, short and sweet: Indonesia is fantastic, money is worth so much here and it is all great. I wish I could tell you more about all my disappointments, to make this blog more juicy. But I am (not) sorry to say, there are none.
The alarm went off at 4.15 this past Saturday. That just seems inhumane, does it not? However, excitement turned out to be an effective method to getting out of bed and after a shower, I ordered my Grab-bike – the driver arrived surprisingly quickly – and went to the meeting point, from where the trip would start!
On this Saturday in November, I had planned to visit Kawah Putih, a lake located on a volcano. I went with an organized tour and the program also included some other sites. Needless to say, but I am going to anyway, I was psyched to finally get out of the city and see more of Indonesia.
While I sat and waited for my friend to arrive and join me, I enjoyed the relative silence that the morning in Jakarta brought, and was watching a girl next to me with fascination, who was slaying mosquitoes like a pro. Once we boarded the bus and took off, I was happily surprised to be able to doze off for at least an hour and a half. Even after that I was in a blissful state of half-unconsciousness, until we reached Bandung.
There I looked out the window and took in all the hustle and bustle of this city. The area where we drove was very different from Jakarta. From the main street you could see the lush green fields and there were no buildings higher than two stories, maybe three. After a while we ended up on the small mountain roads where honking before turning a corner is a must. The views were already incredible, but hard to photograph from a moving bus.
Once we arrived at Kawah Putih, we took a small shuttle bus to the main site. Before going here I read some information on the internet and there were also some signs around the area, all saying the same thing. The smell of sulfer will be insufferable and you cannot stay near the lake for longer than 15 minutes, in case the heavy smell effects you. While we were driving in the area, I kept waiting for the smell to hit. When we were on a small hill near the lake, I carefully sniffed the air and when I was standing next to the lake, I was simply confused about what the fuss was about. There was no sulfer smell, whatsoever. It almost distracted me from the natural beauty, but then I came to a conclusion. Being a touristic site like this, I am guessing they don’t want people crowding the place. So, if everyone can only stay for 15 minutes, they will leave quickly and the amount of people at the scene of the beauty will be minimized. It is either that, or for some reason the smell was just absent for the day. There were people selling masks to cover your nose and mouth, and I politely declined. Doing so in Indonesian resulted in a few gasps of surprise, which is always good for some giggles. I still don’t really understand the use of these masks, especially in this situation. It does not keep out smell. And breathing in the sulfer never killed anyone… right?
Even though people were around to take a picture of me, I could not help myself and took a selfie too.
After we walked around, took some pictures, watched a wedding couple get there pictures taken and sat around for half an hour because we did not need all of the allocated time, we continued our trip. The shuttle bus took us back, we had some lunch and waited for the bus to continue our journey. While I was sitting near the bus, some of the other participants of the trip turned out to speak English very well and struck up conversation. They had been to Amsterdam and they told me something about their trip to the Keukenhof, where I have never been myself. We discussed how strange it is that you don’t take the time to see the sights in your own country, but when you are abroad, you want to see everything. It strengthened my resolve to also start discovering more of The Netherlands. When I will be there for a longer time. In like, a year or so. So maybe it is more of a long term plan.
After Kawah Putih, we continued to another place called Situ Patenggan, a big lake. We needed to pay an extra entrance fee here, which turned out not so positive for me. First of all, it was a little strange for everyone that they had to pay an extra IDR 20.000, and that it was not included in the price for the organized trip. But my disadvantage was a bit bigger, because the price for foreigners was not IDR 20.000, but a whopping IDR 185.000. That set me back a bit, and when we got to the lake I was a tad disappointed. It was just a lake and really not that special after the amazing Kawah Putih. They wanted to go for a boat ride, but while we were walking that way, one of the locals started talking to me and telling me about a location nearby, where it was supposedly really special, called Kawah Rengganis. There were natural springs, and some of them were heated naturally up to 100 degrees Celsius. He showed me a few pictures, and though I was a bit hesitant, I really wanted to let him take me there. I was a bit worried about the price, but he told me the entrance fee was only IDR 30.000. Then I quickly discussed with my friend about what his fee would have to be, and he said I could give him whatever I wanted. My cash funds were running a little low, but I decided to go with him and see what I thought the private tour was worth.
Still took the time to take a picture at the lake though
So. I hopped on the back of his motorbike. This part was nothing new for me and even though maybe going off with a stranger should have caused some nervousness on my part, I was surprisingly calm. That is, until we hit the small mountain roads, varying from cobblestone roads to dirt-roads and there was a lot of wobbling involved. I told him ‘hati-hati’ (be careful) a few times, but he just smiled and gave a little more gas.
We arrived safe and sound, of course, and despite the nagging fear that took hold of me if I looked too closely at how close to the ledge we drove and how far we would fall were that that to happen, I took in the view and could only feel extremely satisfied that I took him up on his offer. We drove past some beautiful tea plantations and we hadn’t even arrived at our destination yet.
When we did, I finally got something I was waiting for all day. A sulfer smell. Now here was a place that is undiscovered by so many and there was nobody there, except for locals. It really gives you a kick when you go off the beaten path and see something new. There were a lot of different springs and the place was really humid. The fact that it started raining didn’t help, but also did nothing to spoil the adventure. Although, it did make walking a bit difficult. The guy hopped from stone to stone and was a few meters in front of me at all times. Sometimes he would wait and a couple of times he would just look back and laugh. Out loud. He grew up there, so of course he was used to the tricky paths, so I just smiled and told him I was nowhere near as fast as him. Although I am sure he already noticed and was thinking something along the lines of “really, Captain Obvious?”
Or at least that is what I was thinking when I saw this statue.
We walked around a bit, took some pictures and I even put a bunch of mud on my arms en rinsed it with the water from the spring. I had a small conversation with a few local guys who were hanging out there and I could not help myself from wondering about how different their lives must be from mine. After a while we went back, because I could not be late for the bus that would continue on. The way back was even scarier, because instead of uphill, we went downhill and because of the rain, now the stones were wet and slippery. HATI freaking HATI.
We made it down alive and he dropped me off at the place where we started, unharmed and a few experiences richer. I gave him IDR 50.000, which was all I could spare. I only had 14.000 rupiah left to get some dinner later on. I am still not sure if he was happy with the amount or not, but I guess that is his occupational hazard.
We were supposed to go strawberry picking afterwards, but because of the rain we all decided it would be better to head back to Jakarta. I really didn’t feel like I was missing out, because the strawberries here taste nothing like the strawberries in The Netherlands.
While driving to Jakarta, I looked back on a great day of exploring. And looking forward to many more.