It's been harder to sit down with good wi-fi than I thought, so I'll try to play some catch up with this post.
See ya Jakarta
From Jakarta we flew to Yogyakarta, but first David experienced the logistical awesomeness of booking a flight within 48 hours in Indonesia. We've discovered they don't allow you to PAY for flights when booking online within 48 hours, which makes our figure-it-out-as-we-go traveling a bit more complex. You can reserve a flight online, but not pay for it. After losing 2 registration numbers, going to three Indomaret's (like a gas station in the US except you can do things like pay for a plane ticket there (!)) with our trusty host Jim who thankfully can speak Indonesian, they figured out how to pay for it.
My overall take on Jakarta is it's a harsh place. The stark difference between rich and poor and the overall quality of life in the city is really low. We were staying in a lovely home that felt very comfortable to us, and had a family of Indonesian's cooking, cleaning, and driving for us. David and I took an evening walk around the neighborhood, and 1 block past our homestay the houses turned into shacks. The only other place I've seen shacks like this is in the movie Slumdog Millionaire. For the poor in Jakarta it's lower quality living than in the Favelas I visited in Rio de Janeiro. There is stagnant water along the sides of the roads in these foot wide drains - I imagine it's like a sewer but there is no grate above them, so I was terrified of seeing a small kid (or myself) fall into one. David reminded me that 'death doesn't live there' when I was expressing my concern about the stagnant open water, but I'm not sure if I believe him.
We also experienced more full on traffic the Monday after the holiday, and it reminds me of the 101 during rush hour except it's constant and there are 100's of scooters cruising around you.
Fast forward to Yogyakarta (pronounced Jog-jah-karta), we stayed at Upala Java Huise which was straight up jungle living about 15 minutes outside of the main city. It was nice to be in nature and a bit away from the busy city, and our host Ali was super helpful.
Yogyakarta has 2 main temples, Prambanan Temple (Hindu) and Borobudour (Buddhist). There is also a long list of nature exploring sites which we unfortunately didn't discover until our last day. Scooter is the only way to travel in Indonesia, so we rented a scooter for less than $5/day (!) and proceeded to scoot around. Our Yogyakarta days were spent driving in to town to get breakfast, checking out Malioboro market, looking for sandals for David (no luck, the largest men's shoe size in Indonesia is 44 which is a 10), and visiting Prambanan temple. One day we got massages (ridiculously cheap.. I think I got a massage and facial for less than $20) during a big downpour, and when we got back to our scooters we realized our helmets were soaked. Noob mistake.
Being a scooter passenger was surprisingly tiring; we traveled around in 90+ degrees /80% humidity along with 100 other scooters and cars spouting exhaust clouds in our faces at stop lights. After the 40 min ride to Prambanan temple I was sunburnt, sweaty, and sooty.
What I found mindblowing, was that because of the Muslim culture all of the local women dressed very modestly despite the heat. They wear socks and gloves (to protect from exhaust while scooting I think?) and long sleeve shirts and pants. I think I broke out with a heat rash after 24 hours in Yogya.
While Yogya was a much more enjoyable city than Jakarta for us, we still ended up spending a lot of time in the city, and it was just kind of hard to do things. On the day we left we had a similar ticket booking fiasco which required us to just go to the airport with fingers crossed (it's low season, so it' was fine). We wanted to go to a National Park before we left but we ended up trying to go to a new spot for breakfast, which resulted in me having a hangry episode because we couldn't find a good spot, and my heat rash was full force while we were wandering around the streets sweating and looking for something that I would be willing to eat (I'm picky). We ended up finding this sweet Chinese man that made us vegetarian noodle bowls at a local spot that didn't scare me too much.
After 'breakfast' we didn't have enough time to go to the National Park, but we DID find an awesome local student artwork store and bought a lot of Batik prints. We then sweat our way to Ali's new restaurant (our airbnb host) and enjoyed a delicious tofu meal before heading to the airport. Next stop; Balian, Bali.
An American Girl in a Muslim World
I've learned a lot from spending a week in primarily Muslim cities. In Indonesia, the more west you go, the more Muslim/extremist it can be, and the more East the more Hindu. Jakarta and Yogyakarta are primarily Muslim cities, and I've felt first hand my conditioning from the way the Muslim religion is portrayed in American media. I don't watch or read any news besides browse NYTimes digest headlines that come to my inbox, and yet I've noticed feeling more uneasy or surprised by being in the presence of many people who practice the Muslim faith.
All of the Mosque's (Muslim places for prayer, like a church) broadcast the live Arabic prayer songs 5 times a day over a loud speaker. This results in a cacophony of loud praying coming from all of the Mosques in the area, which are many. Both of our places in Jakarta and Yogyakarta were very close to a Mosque, and I woke up most mornings at 4am to the prayers.
By the end of the week there, I found them beautiful. I still have a lot to learn about the religion (e.g. why 5 times a day and why amplified over loud speakers?) but being a spiritual person I really enjoy seeing dedicated practitioners of any faith, and hearing the many voices singing prayers is inspiring and beautiful.
While waiting for our flight in the Jakarta area, a man started yelling at the ticket agent at the gate, and was visibly upset for ~15 minutes. I don't know what language he was speaking, but I couldn't understand it, and immediately once I noticed the commotion my whole body amplified in fear and I thought "omg does he have a bomb???" Do you know how many times I've seen English speaking people lose their shit at an airport? A LOT. And once I paused and took some deep breaths, I realized that it's no more likely that this man is going to have a bomb than one of our English speaking compadres.
Here are some photos of lovely Muslim friends we made, one was a tour guide named Mila who gave us a FREE amazing tour of the Prambanan temple because she was practicing to become a certified tour guide. Another group of students from the Yogya university asked to interview David and I for an assignment for one of their courses.
My affirmations from my first week of traveling are:
- Traveling slaughters all expectations, and that's the beauty of it.
- We are all humans, and we are all Divine.