Long time, no blog! I think I need to face the reality that my blog is now purely a travel blog…
This past week, I visited Bromo for the second time! I went a little over a year ago but didn’t bring my own camera or travel with anyone I knew. This time, I went with baby sis, Miss V, and Miss C (a PCV serving in the Malang Regency). We brought cameras.
If you’d like to refresh your memory of where/what Bromo is, exactly, feel free to read the intro to my first Bromo post. Basically, it’s a national park featuring several mountains and one very active volcano. One rents a jeep and driver and is driven around the park (the main stop is hiking up to see the crater). The park is east of where I live. It is magical; mountaintops at dawn are just magical, and being up so high in the clouds is magical. Stars are magical. Anyway, pictures speak louder than words, and I’m about to fall asleep.
Vriz and I took a trip to Madura to celebrate the wedding of our friend and colleague, Faiz, a Sumenep native. We traveled to Surabaya for a night to visit her family, went to Sumenep after that for a day tour and night layover, ventured to the tiny island of Giliyang for a day and night, and finally zipped back to Sumenep for the wedding the next day. We took the night bus back to Malang after the reception. 🙂
Please enjoy these pictures, especially those of people– not just us, but the lovely people we met along the way!! I realize more and more as I travel and look back on my pictures (and get older, gulp) how much more important pictures of people doing and enjoying things are than pictures of what we see in nature or in our surroundings. I hope you like these as much as I do! So much for that daily blog, huh? Travel blog, anyone?? FINALLY, after nearly four years in East Java, I MADE IT TO MADURA!! 🙂
Here are the photos! Very short stories, tidbits of info, and general thoughts are in the captions.
Here’s Vriz with her paternal grandmother (and her “I’m single, let’s mingle” sparkle T-shirt) in Surabaya the night before we headed out!
On the bus to Madura; we took a bus to Surabaya from Malang (2 hrs) and another bus the next day from Surabaya to Sumenep, Madura (5 hrs).
This is the Suramadu bridge that connects the islands of Java and Madura; it was only built recently (within the past five years? three?). Before this bridge, everyone had to take a ferry. It is surprisingly short in reality when one considers the general hullabaloo surrounding its establishment; I can’t believe it’s new. It’s so short and useful. The government should have built it long ago…
Dry, dry western Madura, from the bus.
Dry, dry western Madura, from the bus.
Dry, dry western Madura, from the bus.
Dry, dry western Madura, from the bus.
Dry, dry western Madura, from the bus.
Fisheries, from the bus.
This series is the second part of our trip (the images are out of order) when we went from Sumenep to the small island of Giliyang, also known as “Oxygen Island.” People say it has the first or second highest level of oxygen in the world, whatever that means! I haven’t been able to look up anything about it in English, but in general it seems the island is low in population and pollution and high in trees. Maybe it’s the highest oxygen levels of its low elevation as well? Here’s Vriz on the little boat we took from Dungkek port (about an hour north of Sumenep) on the way to Giliyang.
On the ferry.
Boats in the Dungkek harbor. Boats are used as fishing vessels or transport ferries (or both). From what we learned, people on the small islands mostly sell in Dungkek; there are just a few small stores on the island itself, and resources are limited. Gas, water, food, etc. are all brought in daily from Dungkek. There are about 1,000 people in the island spread in two villages. There’s an elementary school, but most kids who want to study past that have to go to boarding houses (mostly Islamic) on Madura proper. The ship we rode on was transporting all sorts of supplies, including large blocks of ice and motorcycles. The boat next to us was transporting some livestock. Most of the people in the island are involved in commerce like this and almost all of them are fisherpeople in some capacity.
Here’s Sam on the ferry.
Heading out from Dungkek.
Novriska playing as we waited; Novriska versus fish. You can guess who won; that bucket wasn’t very effective!
Preparing goods for transport.
This is our ferry captain and soon-to-be homestay dad, P. Atmawi, helping to load a block of ice below deck.
Novriska hanging out with the bapaks on the ship.
We had a mason jar in the side of my bag filled with some supplies (the mason jar was for coffee-making): bug spray, nausea oil, headache/pain pills. The men saw the pills through the glass of the jar and asked what they were for. Immediately they said they all had headaches so they could ask us for pills. Just regular tylenol-type pills; there are few pharmacies in Dungkek and nothing on Giliyang (even in Dungkek we saw a sign on the road that said “Be careful; if you get in a wreck, the hospital is far off from here.”), and the guys make this over-water journey twice or four times daily. They probably get seasick. Anyways, they all took pills from us, one each. The man in the foreground here wrapped his in a cigarette paper for safekeeping. The others took them immediately. We’re still puzzled about it; they must know they won’t get high– maybe they don’t even want to get high. But maybe they do? Or maybe they’re just genuinely sick? A new experience.
Transporting goods on the ship.
View from our seat.
The captain and his first mate (both of them fell asleep before we got safely to shore. Ha!).
This man chatted Vriz up almost the entire 45 minutes we were on the boat since one of his children is studying in Malang. 🙂 Really nice man! He, along with everyone else on board, insisted that we sleep at their house. There aren’t any hotels on the island, and it seems like tourists are fair game for invites because people know that certainly they can get a little extra cash (and maybe there’s some prestige; seemed to be anyway). We declined since Vriz had a good instinctual feeling about Pak Atmawi.
Arriving in Giliyang.
From the coat of the island.
Fishing boats on the coast at Giliyang.
Unloading goods for delivery to local hole-in-the-wall stores and regular homes. The women came to the shore when the boat arrived to carry goods on their heads; they get Rp 1,000 for carrying one load. That’s about … eight cents?
It was chatting to these women that we first realized the unanticipated challenge of travelling here; not many people can speak Indonesian (even though it’s about 5 hours from the capital of East Java). Vriz speaks a little Madurese, and we made due with gestures. This was a really eye-opening cultural experience for Vriz; honestly, for me it felt like March-May, 2010, when I first arrived here as a PCV. Vriz says she has much more empathy now for what PC trainees experience during those first few moments/days in-country. Eyes opened!! 🙂
This is our lovely homestay family, Pak Atmawi and his wife Bu Sajra. She was a hoot and a half. It seemed like she only yelled all the time. She really liked pinching my nose and rubbing/squeezing my arms. Both she and her mother are dukun pijet (traditional massage therapists). This couple has three children, the eldest of whom has passed. They called their two sons, both living now on Java, so that we could chat with them. The house was really lovely; great open rooms, nice clean traditional bathroom with warmish standing water. No electricity (no phone charging). We had a great stay. They fed us, of course, and let us take their bed. We slept… poorly. This island was HOT, and there was a good amount of mosquitoes. Vriz got bit by a spider. But what can we say? Totally lovely and charming. 🙂 Thank you!!
Here’s Canggih, a local attraction. I don’t know what this type of rock formation is called, but there we have it. Beautiful! Pak Atmawi and one of the younger ladies somehow related to him drove us all around the island to see the attractions. 🙂
View from the rocks.
See Pak Atmawi? I wasn’t brave enough to walk over there. My feet were sweating so much in my plastic shoes; I was terrified of falling!
Our next stop was a fish market, and there was a gazebo on a pile of petrified whale bones. You know… nbd.
Ladies and their fish.
A small child playing with some plastic garbage that had washed up on the shore.
Sam was goaded into going down to chat with the ladies (in what language?! who even knows) and have a pic taken. Thanks, Vriz!
Our last stop was a rocky coast, and P. Atmawi found a little can with a fishing wire and was going to show Vriz how to fish with it.
Taking pics of this because the arrival at the “oxygen” tourist destination was very, very uneventful. It was basically a toilet with a bamboo bench by it. We’re not exactly sure what it was all about. I guess I should do some more research!
Hanging out on the coast!
Learning to fish?
Yep, it was as hot as it looked.
Learning to fish!
Here’s the start of the series of photos we took while in Sumenep before heading to Giliyang. Out of order. This is part of the palace museum; Sumenep was the seat of an ancient empire, and the palace still stands and now houses a museum.
An old qur’an at the museum. They’re always so beautiful to me!
Some “original” stone carvings from the old days when the empire was still in its heyday (Singhasari, for those curious).
Vriz chatting with our amazing museum guide. If you’re travelling here and want to know anything at all about Sumenep, see this man.
Part of the outside of the keraton.
A lovely tree in the courtyard.
A handsome fellow! Very funny, too!
Ew, giant catfish in the keraton pool.
The Jami mosque in downtown Sumenep, built in the late 1700s.
View of mosque from within the park across the street.
I just felt unsettled by this giant teletubbie thingie in front of the mosque.
This tenacious group of gals said “Miss, selfie!!” rather than “Miss, photo!!” It’s the future, people!! We chatted in English and Indonesian, and they taught me some Madurese words. Lovely group of gals! 9th grade 🙂
Hotel balcony sunset!!
Our big “Sumenep culinary adventure” turned out to be reallllly amazing. We had this grilled fish with fresh coconuts and sweet-and-spicy chili sauce. It. Was. Incredible. The fish took forever to grill, but it was worth the wait. Really fantastic meal. Best meal of the trip, and second best fish I’ve ever had in my life!! 🙂 Pacitan fried swordfish (I know, I know) and scallops in Cork County Ireland are in contention for the number one 😉
The mysterious back grilling room!
Here we are heading back (in a weird order, yep) from Gili to Sumenep for the wedding. Looking great, obviously.
As I mentioned before, the Malang ETAs Sarah and Grace have recently left, and Ale went to Thailand and won’t be back until after I’m in the US (and then she’s leaving before I come back in September). Grace is coming back for a second Fulbright year in the fall, but she’ll be in Bima, Sumbawa, Nusa Tenggara Timur, rather than Malang, and that’s a whole string of islands away from Java. Thankfully, however, none of my other friends (except ONE really important one) are leaving, and so I get to continue spending time with them–totally selfish sentiment, but gosh, I can’t stand any more goodbyes!
The crew (minus Grace) got to spend a few happy days travelling together in celebration of the ladies’ departures, and these are some of the photos.
Sorry for the lateness of uploading these. You probably didn’t even notice, but it took forever. The universe was against me on this one; everywhere I went, the upload speed was dead slow. So annoying! Magically, though, and without explanation, the situation corrected itself (that’s how it goes here), and now the pics are uploaded. Fun fun fun!!! I’ve just included stories in the captions mostly, so I’m sorry if it’s messy and confusing. I’m sure you’ll pick up what I’m puttin’ down.
First set: Tea plantation. We visited the Kebun Teh, a little up the road from Malang towards Surabaya. It was a beautiful place, and we had some delicious breakfast there (rice with veggies, tempeh, and peanut sauce…it really never gets old) and took an obscene amount of pictures. Especially selfies. And a lot of pictures of people jumping around. We were lucky that Sarah’s little sister Grace (not ETA Grace) was visiting Malang and could join us on this trip!
it looks badass. and perilous!
exploring and avoiding snakes like professionals
again! the same view? don’t care. couldn’t stop taking pics.
sarah’s little sister grace (NOT grace the ETA) did a little jumping too, but i didn’t catch it. note gnomey little mas yok in the background!
miss L and miss V jump around
here’s where we went! the tea plantation pathway.
and tea plants!
did a lot of jumping for the best action shot. this was pretty funny.
always observing, always thinking
he’s doing it again
the dream team
party people in the kebun teh!
lovely trees at the tea plantation
all these pics of me walkin’ away.
photographic and observing tea plants. what a life!
those are tea plants! with our tiny friends. can you see them?
i swear i almost got attacked by a snake. i ran away though. mas yok laughed at me. it was okay!
we were the only ones here! this is what we looked like. great pic and great storytelling, i know!
the ninja princess herself. this girl is the best dancer i have ever known in real life!
that’s sarah with our hip hop teacher turned bff
cute people walking together in the tea plantation
walking in the tea plantation! the party people.
the crew in the tea plantation! i love these people!
the tea plantation was so beautiful!
the tea industry is huge here, and the most popular type of tea (or tea selling point) is tender leaf tea– taking the young leaves, which are tender and more fragrant, for production. here are some tea bushes in the kebun teh.
more tea bushes and the lovely mountain at the tea plantation
tea bushes!! i took a million pics that were basically the same, but i don’t care. it’s too beautiful!
here we are in kebun teh (the tea plantation) milling around a big tree stump preparing for a group pic!
Second set: Selecta Park. This is a touristy destination that’s part garden, part amusement part, part park, and part water park. Whew, that’s a mouthful. It’s in Batu up in the mountains where the air is clear and free of motorcycle exhaust. Now that we’re out of the rainy season, we’ve finally got our blue skies back, and this was just THE perfect day, weather-wise, to visit a naturey place!
here’s a kid looking at some scenery!
on the way out!
leaving the park!
in the luggage area. there were a lot of large tour buses parked in the parking lot, since selecta is a popular tourist destination (tempat wisata). this guy was probably the driver of this bus.
lots of flowers on display for sale in selecta. this lady was also selling seeds (you can see the packages on the left side, in a clear plastic package / column type thing), and if i rent a house next year i am totally coming back to get some.
lots of flowers on display for sale in selecta.
buying my cacti from this lovely gentleman
succulents are called “kaktus” (cactus) in bahasa indonesia. i’m not sure if all succulents are cacti but it seems that all cacti are succulents. SK, am i right? anwyays, i bought a couple since they’re hard to kill. fingers crossed!
lots of flowers on display for sale in selecta.
lots of flowers on display for sale in selecta. i really wanted this one but i decided not to get it since i figured it deserves a chance to live.
lots of flowers on display for sale in selecta.
lots of flowers on display for sale in selecta.
lots of flowers on display for sale in selecta.
actually, living in malang is great, but i do crave being in nature instead of on a crowded city street. don’t have to go far to find some nature, but i didn’t realize how quickly i can get crazed just staying in this city… and it’s not even a large city, really. 500k people, and there’s green everywhere, but i don’t know… i think it’s the air quality. i just gotta get out now and then, more often than i think. selecta, so fresh! so fragrant!
FLOWERS!! so fresh! so nice!
so nice, am i right? anybody know what this is?
i just wanted to show you the scale of the flowers and this little garden area! these plants were taller than me!! so amazing
for the nice pic! here’s my grumpy self enjoying selecta.
i am TERRIBLE at making poses. i never know what to do. but here i am doing it in the flowers.
this is another attempt at being artsy, leslie saligoe style. flower closeup!
my attempt at being artsy with the pedalpushers (get it)
i found it really captivating! the carts were super slow-moving and colorful– it actually made its own scenery, and watching the random indo kiddies loving every minute of their ride was pretty fun!
there they go!
here’s the view of the flower garden and a magical pedal-power ride thingie that seemed really fun but also terrifying!
we enjoyed selecta! i was a little overwhelmed by the crowds (you know me), but once we got to a quieter spot and could just observe, it was really lovely. there’s a flower garden, a set of swimming pools, and a bunch of amusements (rides, swingsets, etc etc) for kiddies, plus plenty of picnic spots. it’s situated in the mountains in batu, and it’s lovely!
Third set: Balekambang Beach, site of the beautiful Ismoyo temple, perched on a rocky batu karang out in the ocean. Another popular tourist destination for Malangers, it’s a place I hadn’t been to but had wanted to visit all year (now that I’m a Malanger, kinda!). There are several really wonderful beaches on the south coast, as you may recall, and this one is particularly wondrous because of the temple and the crowds it draws. Luckily, we went on a Wednesday, and it was pretty much deserted. Ate a great meal, took excessive amounts of pictures (Lisa, get me?), and stayed bundled up in my jacket to brace myself against the blustery south seas winds!
this is supposedly tuna. i don’t know or care if that’s true, because it was amazing. served with spicy sweet soy sauce and fresh veggies, plus rice, duh. baked on an open flame!!
we had a nice meal in a gazebo on the shoreline! reminded me of travels with ale, sitting around looking at the ocean while stuffing our faces with amazing food. just the same, except i took a two-hour car ride instead of a two-hour flight. i win!
we saw some fighting cats by the bathroom and i had to take their picture. they were cute and playful. v is terrified of all animals and actually ran away from these kittens screaming. naturally that made me want to express more interest in them… just to freak her out i suppose? i like tormenting people who are afraid of kittens. they deserve to be tormented. come on. kittens! 😉
kittenfight. run away!
this guy is my spirit animal at balekambang
V decided to climb a tree… of course. I tried afterwards and made it about 6″ (one step) up the trunk before giving up. Why?? How can people do this?
too cool for me. can’t do it.
This is the view of the back of the temple mini-complex, whose edge butts right against the rocky outcropping of the batu karang– it’s surrounded on all sides by beautiful blue water!!
Here’s the top of the temple from the side, another lovely silhouette. The sky was blue with puffy white clouds. I can’t express how perfect it was!! Not hot, not sweaty, just breezy and beautiful. ❤
lovely blue water and some rocks! there are supposedly over 17,500 islands in Indonesia, and I wonder what counts. Does this? Is this big enough to be an island? How on earth can there be 17,500 islands??
Here are the steps leading up to the temple door! We made it. Didn’t go inside 🙂
our feet, of course! it was perilous
Here’s the plaque proclaiming the founding of the temple in 1985
Twin temple guardians standing watch at the threshold
Blue sky and blue waters!! Lovely lovely. Don’t need to go to Bali or Lombok to get some amazing ocean views. Just drive from Malang about 2 hours dead south and you’ll be in a secluded paradise. No crazy drunken foreigners and no jacked up food prices 😉
Everybody has to do the Java squat, even if if makes them look like a garden gnome!
And there’s Miss V on the bridge! Aren’t we clever?
Well, that’s me on the bridge!
Here we are hamming it up! There are a lot of pics with a lot of poses, but I will try to keep them to a minimum. It was a great place for a funny photo shoot.
There are a few rocky outcroppings at this beach named after wayang kulit (shadow puppetry) characters, though I couldn’t identify which rocky outcroppings were the special three, let alone which of the three was which (except for the one with the temple, Ismoyo, which is named for a god whose human incarnation is the famous and portly Semar, the wise clown and guardian spirit of Java).
A couple colorful young ladies enjoying the scenery.
Here you can see the bride leading from the mainland to the temple island area! There were a few other people enjoying Balekambang when we were there, and more than a couple groups of students on school outings. Everyone was taking LOTS of pictures, as were we.
It’s really important to ham it up when you’re at a tourist destination in Indonesia. Here we are doing just that. It was breezy and cold, hence the cap, jacket, and scarf on yours truly. Loved it, though– bundling up on the beach means it’s perfect beach weather to me!
If you look closely, you can see the flying fox (zipline) wire that runs from a point on the short to the temple island. The zipline wasn’t in operation when we arrived, but it would have been cool. Luckily, the temple isn’t ancient or anything (it was built in 1985), so the presence of the zipline wasn’t that irritating I guess? I would have loved to have done it, actually, haha!
The temple sits on a batu karang (rocky outcropping!) in a shallow-ish area of the beachfront, and a bridge connects the short to the batu karang.
Here’s the view of the temple as we approached from where we parked the car! Lovely silhouette!
Here I am taking a picture of the temple before we climb to and across the bridge!
Fourth set: Driving around Batu. Just some additional photos from the driving we did to get places. I think most of these were taken the day we went to Selecta.
drivin’ around, breathing that fresh air!
is this girl doing
here are some harvesters doing their lettucey things!
another view of the harvesters
we drove up the mountains in batu just to get some sweet views.
i saw this sign on the way home. it says “save indonesia from neoliberalism and neoimperialism, together with the (religious) people, raise the caliphate” wow huh! hmmm…. it is from the hizbut-tahrir organization. i hadn’t ever heard of this. you can learn more about it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hizb_ut-Tahrir
description of temple history
to the temple, through the paddies!
as it stands today
at the time of “discovery” by dutch colonists, 1845
Final set: Random fun with friends! A few more pics.
for “charity,” but we forgot to ask which one! we decorated our bikes with glowsticks and rode around town in black clothes. seems safe, right? i thought i’d be afraid of biking in the traffic downtown, but it was actually just like doing the motorcycle thing, navigation/attention-wise. thanks to mas heru for lending me the helmet. thanks to pcv carly (pictured here) for the invite!!
farewell, peace corps cultural liaisons! i won’t be seeing you as much as i have over the past few months, but it has been real. you are all such swell people, and the pcvs love you!
this is a scary picture of us enjoying some farewell food as the peace corps cultural liaisons finish up their work (since the pc trainees all swore in and went to site!)
a brave soul going up to sing some farewell songs at the restaurant.
our dearest love. we cherish you, mas! this is so you!!!! enjoying some phone time after a wedding reception. this guy.
I hope that was enjoyable, even if it wasn’t as informative as I’d like it to be! I apologize for not providing enough information– please leave any questions in the comments section and I will reply. BUSY life these last couple weeks, and it’s only getting worse as my departure date looms nearer!!
ENJOY ENJOY ENJOY
More intellectually substantive posts forthcoming 🙂
Satrio, Ale, Vriz and I went to a local art show recently. The exhibition was “Fauna” by Sumatran artist Amrizal (pictured above). His work is currently on tour, and we were lucky enough to have him in Batu for a week. The gallery, Pondok Seni – Galeri Raos Batu, was intimate and warm; I hadn’t ever been there before, and I’m beyond happy that Satrio brought us there. The gallery has different exhibits from week to week; I’m sure we’ll go back soon so that I can share more. This was my first time seeing any artwork outside of museums and batik studios–my first glance at contemporary Indonesian art. It was wonderful.
arbeit macht frei
close-up; commerce without morals
commentary / scribblings
the largest piece
tell the world win for what lose for what
the strong one loses
The theme of the exhibition was “fauna” or animals, and each image had a black and white representation of humans and/or animals plus handwritten text in a variety of languages (predominately Indonesian). The text was primarily political and social commentary–the progressive and liberal type that resonates with me personally–but much of it was hard to read. There was some poetry thrown in as well. It was sometimes in accessible because as far as I could tell a lot of it was stream-of-consciousness scribbling, so the artist was writing fast n furious making the letters hard to discern at times. Plus, reading Indonesian is harder than speaking, and I struggled with the language barrier. But, I could understand that there was commentary about economics, capitalism, war (the text below the large eagle was almost exclusively anti-war commentary), education and poverty, history, geopolitics… It was stunning work and invigorating to see and experience. There’s a lively and active punk/anti-capitalist/anarchist/underground scene here, so I wasn’t totally surprised by the nature of the exhibition or its content, but it was a little bit of a surprise to find it in Batu, a tourist town with a focus on agriculture and eco-tourism. A pleasant surprise, for sure.
maria alexandra at the gallery
seven deadly sins
history, fuck, but it’s true! amrizal 2011
if i can stop one heart from breaking, i shall not live in vain
the strong one loses
gallery snapshot #2
deadly sins animals
So, I didn’t take a billion pictures, and unfortunately we didn’t get to meet the artist in person. But you can get a quick idea from these pics about what the gallery looked like, what the basic concept of the exhibition was, and some grasp of the general/overall feeling. Next time we go to an exhibition, I will take more notes so I can provide additional (more thorough) commentary; I snapped a bunch of pics this time with the intention of posting them here so you could see what the gallery was like. The artwork was so beautiful and the space was so perfect. I had a wonderful time and felt–as I said–invigorated, like…okay, back to “normal,” ha! This was a really comfortable space for me, and I was so pleased to enjoy it with close friends. I love seeing my own political and cultural beliefs reflected to me across the medium of culture; finding connections with people (artists, friends, colleagues, whomever) at the basic or fundamental levels of worldview or political outlook despite hugely different religious and cultural backgrounds is sublime, in the sense of actual sublimity, not cheesiness. Shared subculture, solidarity. No matter where one comes from or what one’s life looks like, we can find common ground in recognizing and speaking out against common enemies (greed, corruption, consumer capitalism gone wrong, free market economics gone worse, the destruction of war, etc etc). The rest is often just details.
if i can stop one heart from breaking, i shall not live in vain
Thanks again to Satrio. Really looking forward to the next visit to pondok seni.
That’s all for now,
Here are some photos from a day trip to the south coast! We went last Thursday, Lunar New Year: rented a car, left at 6:30 in the morning, had fun boating around and taking pics all day, and made it back to town for spicy chicken feet by 8 o’clock. Here’s the location of the beach:
The pics below (and their captions) say it all. I thought about writing this all out, but I’m focusing on my research project right now since I’ve got a conference coming up at the end of March and need to get crackin’ on this thing. Enjoy!
The selfie stick and the GoPro turned out to be so FUN. Not ashamed at all.
Here we are getting ready to leave the city!
Of course, we had to get some snacks first.
Indomart never looked so good.
These kids are professional selfie takers.
In the car, ready to go.
It took just a few hours to get to the beach!
So this is where the pics I took start… Here’s the car we rented and a boat, on the shore.
We hopped on the boat to go to the first stop, for snorkeling! I didn’t want to snorkel…it’s hard without glasses and I’m just a little phobic. Ever since what I’m assuming was a barracuda almost attacked me in North Sulawesi, I can’t do the snorkeling!! I managed to snorkel with Maria in Lombok over New Years, but…it was terrifying!
This kid! Such a great travel companion and friend!
Fashionista goes to the beach.
She couldn’t resist the water!! She almost jumped off the side of the boat!
One of our two boatmen. Captains?
This is a full view of the style of boat we took.
THIS is a REAL selfie, taken with my digital camera, not front-facing. Ha. Nice shades.
This is a serious selfie…on the boat.
Lots of boats at the snorkeling spot.
There you can see our friend using the GoPro, which we rented for the day for about $10. It’s an underwater safe camera and camcorder. The others are getting back in the boat!
Stylish lipstick is a must at the beach.
I have never been to the beach and seen so many photos taken. It was basically a day-long photo shoot.
I brought an umbrella because I didn’t have any sunscreen, and boy did it become a fun prop.
Sand! Water! Sun! Green!
More photo shoot time with the umbrella.
Lovely big clouds! The second half of the day was rainy, but we had a beautiful morning!
I don’t generally enjoy the beach, but even the hardest of hearts softens up eventually! Too beautiful not to love!
Hanging out under the tree on Bolu Bolu Island, the second stop after snorkeling.
Selfie sticks galore! Lovely view!
Waiting for the boat to come and pick us up so we could go to the next spot– a waterfall!
Low tide! The waterfall was super short and stout. I loved it.
A busy day as the clouds roll in. We went on a national holiday–Lunar New Year–so the crowds were larger than normal but not what I’d call large, by Indonesian standards!
Back on the mainland, clouds in the sky.
Of course, where there’s a group of kids playing soccer, there are big kids who’ll join in.
The rest of the images starting from here were taken using the Go Pro!
I’m not rearranging all of these in chronological order, so we’re starting again from the first departure. Sorry!
Here we are on the boat!
Yep, there we are still!
Life vests are cool!
Seriously, how can someone be so glamorous?
The selfies continue.
They never stop, really. Especially with the GoPro!
The sweet sunlight!
See how cool the GoPro is???
Sammy hides from the sun! I managed to escape without too much of a burn– just the tip of my nose and my forearms ended up a little pink. That’s a success considering I had no sunscreen!
Boys on rocks.
Sammy and the umbrella! The girl I travelled with almost lost her mind because of my nerdiness. Umbrella, hand fan, and scarf all the way. I told her it didn’t matter because I already stick out like a sore thumb among the locals anyway!!
GoPro in the waterfall!
I swear, everything I brought became a prop! And I love it.
The umbrella also shields from splashes.
For some reason this pic came out the best, color-wise, so I put it last!! Loved spending the day with these cuties. We had such a fun time!
Maria and I traveled to Gili Trawangan for New Years this year, and, despite the fact that we spent the majority of our waking hours sitting in the exact same spot in the exact same Indian cafe not looking at much but the ocean and the clouds, it sure was strange!
Gili Trawangan is one of a trio of islands, known as the Gilis, in Nusa Tenggara Barat, Indonesia. They’re off the coast of Lombok, the island home of the famous Rinjani volcano, and Lombok itself is east of Bali, which is east of Java. Here’s a map, with the Gili Islands circled (I’ve also circled Malang, where we live). Click to enlarge:
We flew in from Surabaya on separate planes and slept our first night in Senggigi, me in a “fancy” place where I was splurging for the night, and Maria in a crappy hostel. It was kind of a mistake how we ended up in Senggigi on the same night in the first place, which is why we didn’t stay together. My place ended up looking a little shabbier in real life than it did on the hotel site I used to make the reservation, but the staff was lovely, the balcony off my suite faced the ocean, and the bathroom and bedsheets were sparkling clean. Didn’t end up getting drunk on the beach that night as I thought I would, but I did enjoy some ocean-listening in the darkness and a great night of sleep.
In the morning, Maria came over to use the nice bathroom. We needed to leave together to catch the ferry to Gili, so we hung around my room for an hour or two, just chatting. Our chatting was a big theme of the vacation. We are both having some crazy times in our lives, so we made a good travel pair.
After a taxi ride to, well, near the port, we took a cidomo (horse and carriage) to the ferry. Naturally, we had to stop at the cidomo driver’s friend’s business where people tried to haggle with us to organize our transportation. We said no thanks and explained we were just waiting for the public ferry. After a few confusing moments and even more hectic moments in the port proper, we got our tickets and went to the shore to catch the boat. The transportation hagglers (hawkers?) were super intense, even more so than in Bali. There’s a speedboat service for twenty dollars that gets you to the island in five minutes, and a public ferry that takes half an hour, but costs just a couple of bucks; I don’t think many foreigners take the public ferry, so the hawkers were really trying to get us. If I remember correctly, we were indeed the only foreigners on the public ferry– if not on the way there, but definitely on the way back; I don’t remember any other non-Indonesians on the first ferry. The boat was a rickety old wooden one, crammed with people and stuff but completely safe (or something).
We landed and had to overcome that terrible first hurdle on any travel adventure: find the place we booked to stay. There aren’t any motor vehicles allowed on the islands (yay!), so we had to rely either on the horse and carriage or our own two feet. Lots of people use bicycles on Gili T, but we had our luggage, so that wasn’t an option. Maria had booked us a hostel a month before the trip, which seemed to be the last available room on the entire island; everything was crazy full and crowded for New Years. Our hostel was a newish one, so it wasn’t on the GPS. We decided to explore a little bit while looking for the homestay, hoping that among the many many signs for various hostels and hotels posted on walls and at intersections, we’d see ours: Gili Tralala. Little did we know that this is also the nickname of the island, which would make finding the hostel that much more difficult.
My initial impression of the island and the atmosphere there was just WOW. There’s basically one major boulevard, and it’s lined with shops, boutiques, learn-to-dive resorts, cafes, bars, and restaurants. One side butts up right against the ocean, so most restaurants have oceanfront dining, which is so lovely. There were tons of foreigners around: lots of beach babes and big, buff dudes and a multitude of quirky folks since the Gilis are a major dive attraction in Indonesia (my basic estimation after my Indonesia travels is that divers are a quirky bunch). The most pleasing thing to my eye was the number of cafes with an international flair: we saw Indian, Italian, “Latin-Mexican” (whatever that is), French, etc etc! It was magical. The food scene in Malang is decent, but there’s definitely not a strip of internationally themed cafes anywhere in the city, especially not setting right next to a sparkling teal-blue oceanfront!
Eventually, we made our way down a side street with lots of signs, hoping that our hostel would be there. A nice young kid on a bike asked us where we were going, so we told him: Gili Tralala. He gave directions and we followed, promptly realizing that he had mistakenly, albeit with good intentions, directed us to a mural that said Gili Tralala. We found another man, also on a bicycle, and asked for help again. He took Maria’s rolling suitcase for us and started asking around. We made it, eventually, but not after a good twenty minutes of trudging around in the mud and muck. Our hostel seemed to be relatively in the sticks, and the arrival was, of course, strange.
The hostel had over-booked itself, so we got downgraded for the first night into a shared dorm. No big deal, except the travelers also in the dorm smelled like buttholes and sawed logs like a pair of professionals. The owner, an older Austrian man who has been living in Indonesia for seven years and doesn’t speak a lick of bahasa, was somewhat apologetic and promised us a private room for the next night. The rooms were shit and way over-priced for the New Year, but we were happy to find a place to drop our stuff and sleep at night. The best part of the hostel was the Lombok couple who managed it, and the worse part, by far, was the maniacal rooster that crowed its pitiful, morose crow all night every night, starting at about two in the morning.
The majority of our vacation was spent parked at the Indian restaurant about five minutes by foot from our hostel, on the main strip and, of course, on the oceanfront. I liked it so much I’d even link to it in case other travelers ever read this blog (or in case non-travelers want to check it out). I think I may even write a Trip Advisor review about how amazing it was, which I’ve never done before because I’ve never cared so much. The cafe is part of the Pesona resort, which does dive training and dives and also has a homestay/hotel. It’s owned (as far as I can tell) by a real live Indian family or family of Indian descent, so the food was legit…not like some restaurants, Indonesian and American, too, that offer ethnic foods but don’t really know how to prepare them well. I’m remembering Maria’s story of ordering something along the lines of gnocchi bolognese in Malang and ending up getting cubes of boiled potatoes with tasteless beef jerky gristle. Blessed be, the Pesona cafe was not of this type.
The food there was absolutely incredible. I can’t even find the words to describe the experience of eating that food. I think the best indicator of our contentment was that we ended up staying there every single day for five to seven hours, eating food, drinking amazing local coffee (and sometimes espresso treats!!!), smoking shisha, and enjoying happy hour. They had floor seating with nice wooden tables and lovely lush cushions; we sat and ate, sat and ate, and chatted for hours and hours. And oh the food, oh the food!! The naan! The chutneys! The paneer and the sauces! Oh drool. Oh, drool! We must have spent 75% of our budget at this place, and it was worth every single penny. If you ever to go Gili, you must go to Pesona. The only better Indian food I have ever had was in India. This topped everything I’ve ever had in the States, even the lovely Indian joints in Bloomington. I could keep going and going about how amazing it was. Thank goodness Maria and I are of the same mindset and could enjoy the countless hours of sitting and chatting and eating and eating, not really caring about doing much else. Just take this in for a minute and imagine this splendid tastiness on your tongue:
#Foodgasm is all we could say. On the last day, we tried to find an alternative joint to try. We walked up and down the strip for an hour before giving in a returning to Pesona. We really did try! But in the end it wasn’t too hard to give up on the search and get back to the Indian joint, especially since the cute waitress saw us walk by in the morning and basically jumped for joy and yelled, “Hey, beautiful ladies!” when she saw us. The day before we had started getting discounts in the form of happy hour specials way before happy hour even started; how could we neglect Pesona on our last day? We would have left the island full of regret. So, we did the right thing, obviously.
The other notable feature of this trip was the nightlife on Gili T, at least in the downtown area. We didn’t go wild and crazy as perhaps we would have a few years ago, but rather chose to remain aloof and take it all in, observing all of the strange drunken people in action. We had a nice New Years doing just that, drinking cocktails while sitting on bean bags watching fireworks near the water. The funniest part of traveling with Maria and enjoying the Gili T nightlife–besides her funny jokes and stories–was the attention her big, beautiful hair received, and it attracted people more easily as the long, late nights went on and people became increasingly emboldened by drink. One pair of strange birds in kilts (see picture below, courtesy of @raeraeraeraerae) were especially interested and approached us as we were walking down the promenade on New Years day, in the eveningtime.
Maria engaged with them, being the travel writer and outgoing person she is, and I kept right on walking, fumbling with my phone and pretending to be super preoccupied and way too chic for it all. These dudes were huge, buff, and shirtless, plus wearing kilts and making all sorts of smiley goo-faces and being too interested in us. Maria, in her excitement and to my great mortification, called me over to chat. (Afterwords, she said she knew I wasn’t into it, but just felt like she had to call me over since the darker man claimed to be Native American and she knows my background and interest…I was skeptical of him and didn’t really mind, in the end, that she called me over. She didn’t mean any harm.) They shook my hand and just leaned in a little too close during the conversation, ending with an invite for us to join them later at a bar up the way. Of course we didn’t, but it wasn’t our last interaction with them…
We saw them schmoozing it up the next day, still in their kilty glory, in the bar across the way from where we were sitting. Friends, it truly was a show. They were up on all kinds of ladies, and everyone seemed to know them. I came to the conclusion that they must own the bar, and Maria said if they did then the kilt schtick would be great marketing/promotion. We sat on our bar stools watching the crowd for a good three house, making up stories about people and eavesdropping like a pair of old lady friends. We are great people watchers. At one point we were considering surreptitiously filming people and providing commentary in order to make a people watching YouTube channel, which I still think is a good idea. There were just so many oddballs to watch: an older drunk man in red with cowboy boots fawning over a local guy, a pair of tortured young lovers whose story we just couldn’t figure out because their body language was so awkward, an older couple arguing over some Facebook photos indicting the man in the pair for being out and about partying when he had told the woman he wasn’t, a pair of sultry ladies with hip style being totally aloof about it all (haha, no not us, in addition to us), and oh my gosh more. It wasn’t as debauched as Kuta, Bali, but there was plenty to keep us entertained until the wee hours.
As you can imagine, we both felt great by the end of the trip, despite a questionable snorkeling excursion that I don’t even want to rehash. Travelling back to Malang took an exhausting ten hours, but Maria is sure she’ll go back to Gili T for diving. I feel like I can finally check the Gilis off my travel list; it’s kind of a right of passage to hit up these types of famous tourist places (I felt the same about certain spots in Bali) despite that one can find exciting and off-the-beaten-path alternative destinations quite easily when equipped with bahasa and a decent budget for transportation. I had a good time and will fantasize about the food for the rest of my life, and I’m glad to have traveled with Maria to experience her perspective and build a new friendship. All in all, we each spent about $350-400 for the whole thing (including plane tickets), so from a practical perspective it was very worth it, and there’s no price to be set on getting closer to a new friend in such a beautiful place. A strange, beautiful place.