Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Indonesia and change o' plans

A thick, gritty cup of java. On Java.
For some reason I cannot understand, I cannot understand Indonesia. I can't figure out how to be here, how to see the place. It isn't that I need it to be Western, at all. I understand Vietnam very well. I understood Laos. I understood Cambodia. I understood Myanmar. I understood how to be there, how to see the place, how to navigate it -- even though the alphabets were not recognizable. It was something about just understanding the place in a particular way, and I can't seem to grasp Indonesia in that same way. It's peculiar and confusing, because of all the countries in SE Asia that we've visited, this one uses the same alphabet as ours, and ostensibly it's the same as other SE Asian countries: traffic is dominated by motorcycles, crossing busy streets is a bit like the old video game Frogger, restaurants and food stalls are similar. So much is similar, and yet I cannot understand it. This is terribly confusing to me, and leaves me feeling sad and disconnected from Indonesia. If only I could understand what I'm not understanding it would help.

The people we have met have been uniformly wonderful -- smiling, friendly, helpful, warm, just truly lovely. We were waved into the little batik factory with smiles. We need help and we are given help, and with kindness. There was a distinct lack of English at the hotel in Solo that caused some difficulty, but it was a language barrier, not a kindness barrier. We have been confused and made mistakes in communicating our plans and have been met with kindness. I really love the people here, as much as I love the Vietnamese and the Lao and the Cambodians.

And yet.

We've completely changed our plans here. We were going to the island of Sulawesi, to Makassar and Tana Toraja and Manado, where we planned to snorkel. The first plans were changed because the weather forecast for Manado looked pretty bad, and without snorkeling there wouldn't have been anything else to do there. Still, we planned to go to Tana Toraja even if we skipped Manado. Then last night, after a lot of agonizing, we decided to bail on Tana Toraja too, so instead of going to Sulawesi, we're spending the rest of our time on Bali. Tana Toraja was difficult, requiring an 8-10 hour cab or bus ride to get there from Makassar. That's essentially two days lost to just getting to Tana Toraja, which of course we knew when we made the plans.

Instead, we will fly to Bali in the morning and just spend the rest of our vacation there. We'll start in Ubud and perhaps we'll hop around the island, and maybe we'll hop over to a small island off Bali, we'll see. We'll snorkel and swim, eat good food, relax, and see what there is to see. Maybe I will understand Bali in a way I haven't been able to understand Java. It's a delight to be back in Yogya -- it felt like coming home, in a way. Our hotel in Solo was beautiful in some ways, but very unpleasant in others. Had there been a fire, we'd have died because we were never able to get in or out of our room without a long battle with the ancient lock and key. There were 3 other people staying there (a couple, and an older woman traveling alone), and it felt kind of strange and empty. I enjoyed my dinner last night but Marc didn't like his. It was in a nice location, with the batik neighborhood right behind it, but going anywhere else didn't seem doable for some reason.

Today we'll relax and swim and go out for dinner, maybe go see the kraton (the Sultan's palace), and then we're off to the airport at 5:45 in the morning. We'll return to Java when it's time to leave, since we fly out from Jakarta, but today is our last real day here. Maybe I'll figure out what I can't seem to figure out.


  1. You've both had enough difficulty for awhile. Maybe you're different now and the soothing calm of Bali is "enough" for the moment!

    1. You are 100% right, Cyndi! Bali is going to be beautifully enough. xo


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