I feel like it was just yesterday that I was painting a world map mural with the kids in my village in El Sal. All of us questioning how to go about painting Indonesia. The few dots that we painted represent the archipelago compromising of over 13,000 islands. It’s hard to believe that these small specs on the world map make up the 4th most populous country in the world.
I found my way to Indonesia via the Philippines. There I had a wonderful visit in Manila and Bohol with my Peace Corps bestie, Amy. The people there are very friendly, always responding with “yes, mam” or “yes, sir.” Sometimes it was a bit much hearing them respond to every single yes or no question with "mam."
I guess I should just be happy that most people there speak English. Manila isn't anything like I thought it would be. A city full of some of the worst poverty that I have ever seen along side any "Western" restaurant, gym, or other franchise you can possible think of.
We took a flight to an island in the south, Bohol, where we saw the chocolate hills, and tarsier monkeys, the world's smallest primate. These will only be images as memories in my own mind, since my camera battery was left on the wall still charging in Manila.
It was a much needed relaxing week at the beach catching up on the past few years of our lives and reminiscing about our time in El Sal. Thanks for a wonderful visit Amy.
Being a budget backpacker will often involve uncomfortable situations; like a 13 hour layover between flights instead of a direct flight. Since it was nighttime, I decided to camp out in the airport. Lucky for me the floor of the Singapore airport is cleaner than most of the hostels I have been staying at, so I was able to catch up on some zzz’s there. After a long few days of traveling and surviving off of crackers, oreos and water, I finally arrived in Ubud, Bali.
|Hindu Temple in Ubud|
|the rice fields outside of Ubud|
Ubud will still turn out to be my favorite place in Indonesia.
|Pura Tirta Empul (Water temple)|
|Kecak Fire and Trance Dance|
|clear water makes for incredible diving|
|the beautiful beaches in the Gilis|
I lose my mind to what I see; Below me a purple starfish suctioned around a piece of coral. A sea turtle swimming next to me in the same direction, we make eye contact and share a moment. A shark below swimming in circles along the seafloor.
|Our group on the 4 day boat trip - one of my favorite experiences in Indonesia|
Hours of traveling from island to island; through the day and night. Snorkeling with turtles, sharks, and fish. Passing by dozens and dozens of islands... Wild monkeys roaming freely along the white sanded beaches. Serene sunrises and sunsets.. and best of all... komodo dragons!
|Komodo dragons! eek|
|snorkel spot on Rinca Island|
|where we slept|
With the stillness in my mind and the calmness in my heart, I surrender myself to the magic of the colors & variety of life form below me in the sea. I surrender myself to that full bodied moon and the stars above shining on me.
|dinner time on the boat|
Days and nights of sailing that seemed like forever ...it's unbelievable to think the distance we covered is just a small spec on the world map.
|sunset from the boat|
Into the great wide open we go… not one of us knows anything about where we are going or what we will do when we get there.. but that’s all part of the fun and excitement about traveling. You always find everything works out ...
Flores, here we come.
|spiderweb rice fields outside of Ruteng|
Even their mothers, who sit on the doorstep, look up from their weaving to wave at me. Unfortunately, my time at Wae Rebo wasn't as good as expected. The scenery was nice and the houses were quite interesting to look at, but the experience wasn't as authentic as I would have liked it to be (considering the effort involved to get there.) The ride there was better.
|Wae Rebo Traditional Village in Flores|
It seemed all they wanted from us was our money and they didn't include us at all about sharing their culture. They said they would perform a ceremony for us, but each of us had to pay $25... uhm.....no. We already paid $25 for the night to stay there. Unfortunately this is what happens when more and more tourists come to an area and it really does take away from the real, true, authentic feel of a place.
|inside the houses|
|cupping, Indonesian style.|
Families working long days together in the fields for their dinner tonight. Volcanoes appear in a distance – so high that the top of it is hiding somewhere in the clouds. Women washing clothes in the river as their naked children splash water at each other. Tires screech and up ahead stands a cow standing in the middle of the street. Rows of colorful houses, many of which have a tombstone of a deceased ancestor next to their house.
|the crater at Mt. Bromo, Java|
|Hindus walking to the temple|
|Why don't the children wear helmets? I don't know. It's Asia.. |
a place where I have learned to stop asking questions
|the crater @ Mt. Bromo|
They come to you right when you need them. Reminders of why you travel are in those moments that inspire you, excite you, amaze you ... those moments, those people, those sights, those experiences that keep you going. It's these moments that happen almost daily. Each day is something new, and there is something exciting about not knowing where you are going from here..
Traveling is the best way to expand your mind and soul. It's the beautiful sites you see and the immersion into a new culture that gives you a better understanding of the world. It's the other travelers too. People from all over the world, with different stories and backgrounds; that have all come to this place at the same time as you. It's like you are traveling the world while still staying in one place.
|sunrise over Mt. Bromo, Java|
You may be far away from your comfort zone, but you are only rewarded with something remarkable in the end.
|A Hindu Temple in Yogyakarta, most of it sadly destroyed by the earthquake|
All it takes is that initial step out of your comfort zone, and things only get easier from there. It's simple ~ all you have to do is trust yourself, trust the universe, and trust the kindness of strangers (while still having a guard up and maintaining your street smarts.)
To think that in a few weeks from now I will be in a place that I have dreamed of going to for over 10 years. India, a place I truly never believed I would go to. A place that seemed impossible to my once small, closed, narrow 18 year old mind.
|Lia (solo female traveler from Holland) and I on the becak|
With it being my last day Indonesia, I spoil myself; a 2 hour massage ($9) , a pedicure ($3), pizza and a banana split. I deserve it :) 1 month in Indonesia - done and done. I'm ready to move on to a new country, and I can only hope I will be given the opportunity to come back to this amazing place.
|Musical performance at the Kraton; Yogyakarta|
|miners carrying sulfur along the ridge|
|sunrise at Mt. Ijen|
|Borobudur Temple; a 9th century Buddhist temple|
|a few girls from Borneo|
Those relaxing nights on the beach… watching the tide wash up the phosphorous to the land, and pulling back into the ocean all of my concerns. The wind whispers to me, everything will be okay.
|Borobudur is the world's largest Buddhist temple;|
|getting a tour of the school in Probolingo|
A part of me remains in the sun that was given to it during those spectacular sunrises that burned away all of the negative and warmed me with positive. I left behind something on the steps of the Hindu temple and in that Buddhist temple on top of the mountain. I lost myself in the eyes of those Balinese traditional dancers and in the hands of the school children who want nothing more than to shake my hand and take a picture with me.
Thanks to the kindness of strangers- all those local people who helped me out along the way. Those who have shared their culture with me - who have helped me from getting from point A to point B.
Thanks to the other travelers that I have met along the way, whether it was for a few hours, a few days, or a few weeks, it was nice meeting you all. Experiences are better when shared.
Thank you Indonesia. You treated me well..