Monday, May 20, 2013

wrapping it up

us at Borobudur
Without a doubt, this was our best trip together -- which is a separate thing from the trip with the most memorable moments. I think that would have to be the Vietnam trip where we floated through the Mekong Delta. But this trip was just so lovely, so sweet, and we enjoyed our time together so much. I'll always remember this trip with so much love and affection, both for Marc and me together and for the Javanese people and everything about Bali. The trip is also our most unusual trip in that we completely changed the itinerary, bailing on Sulawesi and going instead to Bali. And then there was the unexpected aspect of loving Bali so very, very much. We both fantasized about moving there -- just as everyone does, I suppose, who visits Bali. I think the expat community is pretty extensive there.

Here are some concluding thoughts and summaries, and a couple of things that just didn't fit anywhere else:
  • On nearly every flight, there was a pre-recorded announcement about drugs -- as in, do not use them because it is a crime punishable BY DEATH. They don't monkey around.
  • Could we tell you exactly what "Indonesian food" is? Nope. Although much of the food in SE Asia is similar, there are distinguishing features between the countries. Vietnamese food seems most distinct, as does Thai. Lao food has more lemongrass than most. Meat in Myanmar is served in small dishes floating in oil. Cambodian food and Indonesian food, well, they're generally just SE Asia. It was good, just not distinctive. I often got Nasi Campur, which is a kind of smorgasbord plate of Indonesian specialties. There was always a bit of satay, some green beans, some fried tofu and often tempeh, a bit of chicken, some crisps, and a pile of rice. A small dish of sambal and various other small bowls of spicy condiments, though none very spicy to us (well, none at all spicy to us but we have burned out our spicy tastebuds on too many habanero peppers).
  • Although I left Java feeling very confused, we had some beautiful experiences there, at Borobudur and in the batik village in Solo. Other beautiful experiences were with the people, who were uniformly kind and warm and generous. My memory of the Javanese people will make me smile, although I never could get a handle on the place. This puzzled me the whole trip; when we got to Bali, something clicked into place and I understood it immediately, which was a treat after being so confused by Jogja and Solo. I wanted to understand it, but I couldn't figure out how to see it. One issue may have been the vast coverage by graffiti (which I loved, it was beautiful in places) -- but it kind of made every place look the same. And at least when we were walking around, so many places were closed. There would be storefronts and homes and empty spaces and industrial spaces mixed in together, and no sidewalks to speak of. I still don't know what I didn't understand, I just know that I didn't understand it. And that made me so sad. It's a country with a serious sweet tooth, which makes me love them all. At the Jakarta airport, the food court looks like this: donut place / donut place / something else, donut place / donut place / something else. Repeat. If Java wasn't made for me and my sweet tooth, I wouldn't know a better place. Here are all the Java pictures, which includes Borobudur, Yogyakarta, and Solo (including the great batik factory):
  • There were lots of dogs hanging around Bali, and lots of cats hanging around Gili Trawangan. Don't know why.
  • Because we left Ubud for a few days to go to Gili T, we missed the big funeral for a member of the royal family. We saw men constructing a huge tower, and we learned that 100 men would carry it through the streets of Ubud to the cemetery. We really wanted to be there for it, but our trip didn't work out to make that possible. And then when we were going to dinner one night, we saw the village streets lined with people, most of whom were dressed up. The driver told us that someone in the village had died and the body would soon be carried to the cemetery. I loved this. I don't know if it always goes like this when someone dies, but if so that's pretty great. Here are all the Bali pictures:
  • Although most of the islands in Indonesia are Muslim, Bali is Hindu. (Well, the people in those places, obviously.) In Ubud, there were small offering trays everywhere. Some trays were large and filled with rice and flower petals and all kinds of things -- even once, a cigarette. And some were a simple square of banana leaf with a few grains of rice. Some had incense. We also saw people with a few grains of rice on their foreheads, something like a bindi. The small offerings are called canang sari and preparing and placing the offerings is a very important part of daily life for the Balinese (read about it here). The rice is placed when prayers are made in specific temples; you can read about it here.
  • During our very short few-hour visit to Narita, I finally decided to give up my deep grudge against Japan, which I've held on behalf of my dear, sweet former father-in-law Kiki, who fought in the Pacific theater in WWII. He told me that when he was a pilot, he would hang out in the clouds because he just wanted to go home, but it turned out that the clouds were such a dangerous place to be because everyone was hanging out there. He didn't want any of his kids to drive Japanese cars -- vehemently, he felt that way -- and he spoke with such pain about the war (though not often) that I felt a deep grudge against Japan, for him. Because of that I never wanted to go to Japan, but there we were. And I realized it was time to let that go. Kiki has been dead a long time now, and I am so sad and sorry that he and all those other people had to suffer through that terrible war, but it is time for me to let go of that grudge. The temple we visited was just beautiful, and when we went into a restaurant for lunch, it made me laugh the way the women spoke very fast at us and didn't even allow the possibility that we had not a single clue what they were saying. I found that dear in some way. And slowly, slowly, I felt that old grudge loosening its grip. Here are the Narita pictures:
  • It's a shame we didn't get to go snorkeling -- our sole reason for taking the days out to go to the Gili Islands -- but it was a nice time anyway. Here are the photos from that part of the trip:

If you're steadfast -- or just very bored -- here's the whole set, all together, including a few that didn't fit into any of the smaller sets above.

It was truly a wonderful trip. I'd go back to Bali tomorrow if I could. We cherished all the days we had in those beautiful places, and think so fondly of the sweet man at Alam Jiwa, in Ubud, and that beautiful place. Terima kasih, Java and Bali.

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