Leslie’s Letters: Bali & Touring Central Java 2017

Sept 20, 2017   Hello Dear Shannon – I love it that you wrote me to tell how things are going back in Ventura, California!

It was a fabulous piece of fortuitousness that we got to meet up in Sydney over the X-mas and New Year’s holidays (2016).  I have great memories watching your daughter Hazel feed the koalas and wallabies, all of us eating together in downtown Sydney, and then having Charlie hang out overnight with Trent and Bryce. They were so happy together. Truly a magnificent X-mas gift for BnT!

The boys enjoy very much keeping in touch with Charlie through Instagram. Per what you said – high school seems to be working out for him. Terrific to hear how he’s doing in waterpolo. I really wanted that for BnT, but alas, there are a lot of things they are missing out on – their junior high and high school years. I just hope that what they are experiencing with us will work out well for them in the long run. So many people say what we’re doing is the BEST education our boys could experience – yet as a mother, I worry.

This last week here in Indonesia has been full of beautiful and arresting sights and experiences. For a reward due to all their hard work on the boat, BnT and I as chaperone headed down on a five hour drive to the southern section of Bali to catch some great internationally renowned surf (Ulu Watu and Padang Padang) staying in a hostel on the beach for four nights while Eric remained with Kandu in Lovina at the top end of Bali.

Trent and Bryce Rigney heading down to the Pedang Pedang Beach to surf Bali’s legendary waves in Indonesia sporting their Robert’s surfboards from Ventura.

While we were away, Eric had fun cleaning out our water tank of dead cockroaches. Not! The surfing was terrific – the boys’ hearts and bodies were full of peace & happiness from their exertions – I too enjoyed special quiet time not having to follow orders, clean, and cook. I read my book: Blue Lagoon – a free classic kindle download that was made famous by the child star Brooke Shields. Truly fabulous read and made all the more special since I was reading it with the sounds of tropical ocean waves crashing ashore.  Wow!

The night of our return marked the opening of the Lovina 2017 Festival. The Sail Indonesia fleet was invited for a Regent hosted dinner and then treated to a fabulous parade of local talent from the neighbouring villages, including drum troops, theatre like skits with masked performers, bamboo basket craft displays and a child marching band that was conducted by a young girl! The evening concluded with a professional troop of 12 Balinese female dancers enacting a beautiful and complex dance in traditional costume. It was truly spectacular!

The next day, leaving the boat for five days, Eric and I decided to end our pest problem once and for all by setting-off three roach bombs inside the closed boat. The poisonous air was so fierce that the four of us hastily escaped to catch a 17 hour bus ride (including a ride on a water ferry) west to Yogyakarta on Java Island for four days to visit the impressive Buddhist temple Borobudur and Hindu temple Prambanan both built in the 9th century. Our boat buddies Bolo and Natalia from s/v Wassyl joined us in the fun excursion.

24 hour busride to Central Java including a ferry ride.

The two temples were constructed nearby each other around the same time in competition (Borobudur was completed around 825 and Prombanan was completed in 850) and then 150 years after construction was completed, both experienced extreme damage by huge volcanic earthquakes and consequently were covered by thick ash due to the subsequent enormous eruption by the local Mt. Merapi volcano. The survivors left the surrounding area due to the bad soil quality – farmers could no longer grow food in the acidic ash environment. 150 years or so later, the environment became increasingly hospitable, but by that time, with no written records, the incredible temples were mostly buried until local Indonesians revealed their existence to British ruler of Java, Sir Thomas Stamford around 1814. Renovation was instigated by the Dutch colonisers in the late 1800’s, but the largest restoration project for Borobudur was between 1975-1982 by the Indonesian government, mostly funded by UNESCO.

Borobudur is the world’s largest single-structure Buddhist temple decorated with 2,672 carved panels and 504 Buddha statues – more than half of those are missing their heads. With a tour guide, we walked the incredible structure and learned by study of the panels about the early life of Siddhartha. Cool!

The restauration of Prombenan, the largest Hindu temple in Indonesia was started in 1918 by the Dutch. They began with the centermost and largest temple which is dedicated to Shiva and finished the one in 1953. Once the first puzzle was solved, the other 8 god temples were then reconstructed. Of the surrounding 225 priest temples, just three have been reconstructed. The two temples and grounds are truly wonders to see and visit. Both sites are incredible in their stature, intricate carvings, symbolism and holiness.

Straight away, we visited Yogyakarta’s Sultan’s Palace to witness their special puppet shows: Wayang Kulit. The puppets help maintain oral history and also recount stories like Ramayana – which is the one we witnessed. The action is extremely slow accompanied by music – interesting for about 1/2 hour. We didn’t stay until the end, but headed off for a visit of the palace filled with historical significance and artifacts.

Last night we ended our stay in the colourful Sultan ruled Yogyakarta by enjoying the famous Javanese ballet, Ramayana, about Rama and Sinta, a Hindu “Romeo and Juliet” type tale. It was terrific to witness in person their highly stylised movements and to hear the live Javanese classical style singing and orchestra. I loved every moment of the hour and 1/2 performance and could follow along the story pretty well after having read the synopsis. The boys were a little less enthusiastic, yet they seem to be absorbing quite a lot about the Indonesian culture, growing to appreciate it more and more.

It was 24hr local bus ride to return to Bali from Yogyakarta with a 30-min inclusive dinner stop: rice, fried flattened tofu something, fresh vegetable soup, various chicken parts in flavorful sweet Indonesian kecup sauce, chili paste, shrimp chips, and sweet hot or iced tea. Excellent! After that it was only 10 hrs to go with a loud kung fu movie all in Bahasa! The traffic back was terrible and running very late, the driver was a crazy man honking and darting around scooters. It was miracle he didn’t hit one.  Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride!

Our luxury bus back to Bali. Huge compared to a scooter, right?

Before sailing here, I didn’t have any particular expectations of what we would discover except perhaps a bit of exotic asiatic influence. Indeed, the culture is asiatic as are the faces and smaller, generally lean bodies. Bryce and Trent are considered tall, as am I for a woman! LOL! Our last six weeks traveling from east to west have been full of amazing discoveries involving this country’s vast physical beauty and mixed yet well integrated cultures. If you didn’t know, Indonesia is 80% Muslim with the greatest number of Muslims living on Java, Sumatra Lombok and Sumbawa. The outlying eastern islands tend to be mostly Christian (Timor, Alor, Flores, Komodo, Rinja). Bali is Hindu with some Buddhist. I don’t know the statistics of Borneo, but I suspect it is predominantly Muslim.

Women everywhere you look have their hair covered except in Bali. When motoring on scooters, their colourful head & upper body coverings trail behind them, while the lower half is clothed in skin tight skinny jeans – an odd juxtaposition I must say….in the more conservative areas, we all wear long pants and I cover my shoulders and arms. I sometimes wear my red floppy hat, but in temples we’re instructed to remove hats. A little confusing considering the head coverings worn by the women. FYI – 35% of scooter drivers wear masks over their nose and mouth to protect against the carbon & burning plastic pollution. I find myself regularly sneezing and congested.

Young Indonesian woman transporting onions on her scooter in her skinny jeans and flip flops.

It is not at all scary here. We find the people generous, kind, modest, happy, and much less encumbered by stuff – although everyone has a phone! (The middle aged and older population tend to have a lot of missing teeth.) The most favoured shoes are thongs even when riding scooters. Scooters are everywhere with sometimes four people hanging on or a small kitchenette restaurant attached. I’m glad not to be driving myself.

BTW – the food is tasty albeit spicy. Much smaller portions than in the states: lots of tofu and rice. Meat is available but more like a supplement or flavor additive than a mainstay. Prices for us are fortunately inexpensive, however, bargaining is necessary to get the inexpensive prices! Outside the prominent sightseeing structures, kitch is everywhere for sale with hagglers holding up souvenirs and following you down the street to encourage you to buy.

Rice fields are a constant vision, along with some corn and tobacco crops. We are experiencing arid heat during this dry season; it’s hot and dusty. The cities are mostly cement block houses and buildings sometimes colourfully painted. There are few sidewalks, predominantly two lane highways except in busy highway type thoroughfares where there are two lanes on each side. Like England, you drive on the left side of the street – or as they say here: the “correct” side. The overall look of most city areas is rather dirty, unkempt with crowded conditions. Plastic trash can be seen everywhere especially on undeveloped lots and in riverbeds. Sailing the waters, we see plastic trash regularly floating on the surface. We worry about our prop getting tangled by plastic bags and nets.

Well – that is a lot more than I bet you expected to read. But since you mentioned that you are interested in traveling here to Indonesia someday, I thought I’d write a bit more about our insights and experiences. Big hugs to you, Leslie.

Oh – almost forgot – in Central Java one day near Borobudur we had the most incredible time cooling off and rafting down the local river in the very capable hands of Mendut Rafting with our travel buddies Natalia and Bolo from s/v Wassyl. It’s one of Bryce and Trent’s favorite foreign adventures so far!


4 thoughts on “Leslie’s Letters: Bali & Touring Central Java 2017”

  1. I LOVE the detail and description of your adventures- I can actually picture them! A few years ago, we took a cruise through that area and went on an excursion in Java- to Borobudor, There were quite a few of us on a bus that was led through the streets of Java by police with sirens!! I can’t imaging what the locals thought of the upheaval that must have caused- I , frankly, was embarrassed, but I suppose because of the distance and lack of time, that was their remedy–I will NEVER forget the whole experience- only a drop in the bucket of your amazing adventures! Safe travels!

    1. Judi – so funny that you had that incredible bus experience! We too have had that experience with the tour buses. I think the police escorts are mostly because the streets are narrow and the buses are very wide. And also – the tourism office wants to make sure that tourist have great experiences to report back to their friends, thus sending more tourists to visit.The temples were absolutely amazing as was the surrounding of Central Java and Yogykarta – like you described – unforgetable! Hugs to you, Leslie

  2. How fun and exciting to read the accounting of your incredible adventure. The videos add even more of a personal touch to the blog. Kelimutu Tri colored Lakes are amazing. The colors are unreal! Thanks for blogging and sharing your adventure with everyone. Each of your writings take us there as if we are experiencing it also. You all look great! Happy and healthy!

    1. Paulette – so GREAT to hear from you. The Kelimutu Lakes were amazing to see. I’m so glad we made the extra effort to visit them. It would have been tragic not to. The boys are really getting into the video blogging now and Bryce has been practicing droning. It’s always a bit scary for him around water. I’m sure Phillip can relate. Glad you’re enjoying reading about our adventures and that we’re able to provide some insight into areas that we never imagined were so colorful and diverse. Hugs to you and your ‘guys.’ L

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