The exact number of islands in the Indonesian archipelago is 17,508, according to the country’s tourism office, along with 400 volcanos, some of which are still active. Scattered around the equator, the island chain reaches over 3,000 miles east to west.
Each of the country’s roughly 300 ethnic groups has its own languages, customs, and cuisine. Though Islam is the dominant religion in the country, Bali is Hindu. Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population.
On the island of Java, our first stop is Tanjung Priok, the port city for Jakarta, a city of 9.6 million.
Taking a free shuttle to the Artha Gading Mall, I was met by a young woman in native dress. She escorted five of us to the rear of the mall, up 5 floors in a freight elevator along with shipments of fruits and vegetables, to a darkened parking lot. I had thoughts of being kidnapped for the sex trade, but a friend from Cyprus said that if it happened, they would quickly throw us back. We crossed to the rear door of a department store, Pendopo, which had not opened for business. We were welcomed by the staff, treated to coffee and tea, entertained by native dancers, and learned how to make batik. A young salesman, Danny, escorted me through the store, converting Indonesian rupees to US dollars. We were followed by another sales person who carried my selections. When I finished shopping and paid the bill, I was escorted to an office where I chose a cup as a gift. Danny then escorted me, carrying all of my packages, down through the mall and out to the shuttle bus. The service at this store was impeccable. The merchandise of the best quality. I would have loved to have some pieces of furniture shipped home but the shipping costs are astronomical.
Our second stop will be at Semarang, the port for the 3 hour trip to Borobudur, an UNESCO World Site. Borobudur, the world’s largest Buddhist monument, was buried beneath volcanic ash and overgrown jungle until 1815 when it was discovered by Stamford Raffles. The Buddhist kingdom that ruled for centuries built Borobudur, a 113 foot high pyramid. For one of the world’s greatest monuments, little is known about it. The Buddhist Cailendra dynasty, which ruled Java in the eighth and ninth centuries, commissioned it, but the reason is lost in time. It consists of hundreds of massive stone Buddhas. It is the largest single monument in the Southern Hemisphere.
16 of us in 2 vans ventured the 3 hours through the countryside to Borobudur. The trip in itself was an experience in viewing another culture. The island is quite mountainous with volcanos covered in clouds on the horizon. As we were preparing to leave, vendors surrounded the vans. I purchased 6 puppets.
After 6 plus hours in a van and the heat and physical exertion of the shore excursion, Sandy, Susan, and I only made it to the Sports Bar before we dropped all our packages and ordered drinks. After a round, our bartender informed us that there was Happy Hour in the Ocean Bar. We picked up our packages and moved to the Ocean Bar. After several more drinks, we were only able to make it to our cabins before completely collapsing.
Java has always been a romantic fantasy….. it is now a real memory!
“When in Bali, you will understand its nicknames such as Island of Gods and Island of Love.” Bali is exotic, beautiful, warm, and today was WET! It rained all day; rivers flowed down the roads. Six of us (John, Sandy, Linda, Susan, Mike, and me) set off in a van to see the island. We visited Ubud, a charming town of shops and restaurants; we didn’t stop because of the rain. When we did stop at a restaurant, we were issued umbrellas for the walk to the lavatories. We visited the Tegalalang rice terraces, but only for a few minutes because it was POURING. We traveled to the top of the volcano for the view, but missed it because of the fog and RAIN. We did walk through the RAIN at the Spring Water Temple, a unique Hindu temple of incredible beauty.
The second day in Bali, 9 of us piled into the same van with the same driver as yesterday. The skies were producing the same moisture…. and we drove… and drove. We arrived at Kerta Gosha, the traditional justice palace of the Klungkung kingdom built in 1622 and located in the center of Semarapura city. This looked like a water palace to me. Back in the van, more rain, more driving. We arrive at the Tirga gangga water palace. Only this one is incredible. After viewing the statues and ponds and flora, we had lunch at the Tirga Hotel overlooking the beautiful scene. All agreed this was definitely someplace to which we’d love to return. Back in the van, driving narrow, winding mountain roads to the Tenganan traditional Balinese village…. a walled mountain village retaining the pre-Hindu culture. Back in the van, driving through the rain to the port when STOP was heard echoing in the van. A quick u-turn brought us to a shop selling colorful Hindu umbrellas and traditional Balinese decorations. All in all, 9 of us laughed our way through Bali and would come again.
I have changed my goal as per Sharon Penman’s Lionheart. I believe I will save it and try to finish off Richard on the World Voyage 2013. He’s making his way to Jaffa…. next year will be the third year I will spend plowing through this book. Thank goodness for Kindle… I don’t have to lug around the large book.
Barry from Boston is the new piano bar entertainer. Bright red hair, marvelous pianist, interesting character.
Our fixed seating table (Margaret and Peter, Hans and Marian, Sandy and me) continues to be the charming, interesting, hilarious one that began over 6 weeks ago. Sometimes the chemistry of the guests just meld.
The Interdenominational Services (Protestant) continue to be well-attended.
The Singles and Solos met for a luncheon in the Pinnacle Restaurant.