Tag Archives: Indonesia

Travel Guide: Ubud, Bali

To recover from our grade 10 trip to Cambodia and to celebrate Chinese New Year, I headed to the city of Ubud on the Indonesian island of Bali. The stereotypical Bali experience is one of beaches and parties, but Ubud is actually located inland without a beach. This helpful map comes from Lonely Planet:

map_of_bali

I honestly didn’t do much while I was in Ubud and it was fantastic. My very wonderful Airbnb hosts directed me to the Yoga Barn where I bought a three-class pass and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Not only was the studio beautiful, but they also had a delicious juice bar! I took the photos below standing on the deck of Yoga Barn’s complex:

P1060798

P1060799

When I wasn’t in the studio, I walked around town, visited a few must-see sights (the market and palace), ate top notch vegetarian food (Ubud is perfect for those on a health kick with all the yoga and organic restaurants), drank local wine, and wandered in and out of shops.

P1060796
I loved this.
P1060797
Balinese people love beautiful objects. This was set on the sidewalk in front of a jewelry store.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P1060793
Example of the offerings I saw everywhere. There was one in front of my door each morning when I woke up.

Most families live in compounds, each of which contains the family temple. Balinese Hinduism is quite different from the more familiar Indian Hinduism, and I was glad to learn about it from my hosts. All around Bali people were erecting bamboo poles like the one below to prepare for the Galungan celebration, marking the return of gods and ancestors. I saw multiple families sitting outside and around their homes stapling together the bamboo flower decorations that wrap these poles, as well as putting together other offerings like the ones seen above.

P1060901

As I wandered, I took pictures. While many of the photos below are the exteriors of temples, others are family compounds. Many of these, like the one where I stayed, are used in part for guest houses. The hospitality and tourism sector is the primary industry in Bali right now, thanks in part to the artists who came to Bali in the 1980s in search of an “untouched” place for inspiration. Rice farming, which still happens in Bali though not in trendy Ubud, was basically the only industry before the tourists arrived.

The architecture was probably the most interesting aspect of Ubud for me. I loved the stonework and the solidity and stateliness it gave to the city. Ubud felt solid, strong, and anchored in tradition. The more I talked to my hosts, the more I learned how family and religion are the center of Balinese life. In a very old world way, most people know each other, are related in some manner, and have been in their homes for generations. As a result, people are happy and comfortable and crime is relatively low. Add that to the yoga and it is no wonder being in Ubud left me feeling calm and centered.

Ubud Market, on the other hand, is the opposite of calm and centered. It is as cluttered and chaotic as any market I’ve seen, which made it a wonderful spot to take pictures:

Yes, it started to pour shortly after I took these photos. I ran into a nearby cafe for cover.

 

And that was my time in Ubud. Yoga, food, shopping (I actually made purchases for once!), and wandering. I took it very easy this trip (for once) and thoroughly enjoyed myself. How can you not in a place that has flower patterned sidewalks?

P1060904

 

Travel Guide: Surabaya

I turned 25 at the beginning of January and Mitch took me to Surabaya, on the Indonesian island Java, this weekend for my present! This was a very short trip for me. I landed at 8:45pm Friday night and flew out at 12:10pm Sunday afternoon. My flight was originally scheduled to leave at 5pm so I was supposed to have all of Sunday in Surabaya, but AirAsia cancelled my flight and moved me to the earlier one. Ah well, such is life and such is travelling on discount airlines. Nevertheless, we had a wonderful day on Saturday!

Indonesia is laughably cheap, which should also tell you how poor of a country it is. As a result, though, we stayed in a gorgeous hotel with a stunning pool, ate decadent food, and hired a driver to take us up to Mount Bromo, an extinct volcano. Seeing the volcano was the reason Mitch chose Surabaya as the place to visit.

Shots of our beautiful hotel in which we had a king-size bed, delicious cocktails, and ordered room service as a snack:

Hotel lobby Hotel exterior while they were filling the pool Rooms

Unfortunately, I saw basically nothing of Surabaya itself. From sitting in traffic, I can tell you that it’s very dense and not walkable, at least not where we were. The driver on Saturday told us that West Surabaya is the expat area with the international school, so maybe it would have been different over there. We did see lots of cool graffiti, though! This is the only example of which I managed to snap a decent picture from the car:

Graffiti

Saturday was a dreary day, as all of the photos suggest, but the rain didn’t start until about 3 hours into the 3.5-hour journey up to see Mount Bromo, located on the Tengger Caldera. We had been warned that it was not a good day to try to see Bromo, but that’s what we get for traveling during the rainy season. The best time of day is supposed to be sunrise and even there there’s a 50% chance of clouds and rain. We figured we’d make do with what we had to work with and I’m really glad we did! Even though the drive was very long, we got to see a lot of Java that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. The diver was very knowledgable and friendly, making for a pleasant and educational journey. He drove past the zoo so we could see the iconic statue of an intertwined shark (sura) and crocodile (baya). Who knew?! All of these photos were taken from a moving car, so they’re not the best. Sorry!

Mosque
One of the MANY mosques we passed on the way

P1040984

Motorcycles
Surabaya has even more motorcycles than anywhere we’ve been in Malaysia, which is saying a lot. Except for the guy in the front of this photo, all other adults we saw were actually wearing helmets! We even saw a couple kids in helmets, which was rather surprising.

Along the way, the driver pointed out a community that had been utterly destroyed by mudslides. No one has been able to figure out how to stop the mud, so now it goes through pipes into a river that leads to the ocean. We saw flattened stone houses, a ruined mosque, and a new road as a result.

Mud flowing into the river Muddy river Canoe

We drove through little villages and towns that became increasingly sparse and increasingly agricultural as we got further from Surabaya. The terrain reminded me a lot of our trip to Cameron Highlands. Different trees, though.

The kids walking home from school in their uniforms made me smile. Kids in uniforms are just so adorable.P1050006

Painted building that we passed:

Traditional Indonesia

Mount Bromo is easily recognizable because it has no top. We were able to see it from one of the two lookout points on the caldera. Had the weather cooperated, we would have taken a Jeep closer to the mountain and gone exploring around and up it, but we had to be contact with gazing through the clouds and rain. Despite those conditions, it was an impressive sight:

Mount Bromo Mount Bromo Again And . . . Mount Bromo!

Nature is really amazing and rather terrifying if you think about it. My favorite photo from the whole adventure was this one because I think it really captures the awesomeness (and I mean that in the literal sense of the word) of Mother Nature and whoever helps her:

P1050014

In addition to our volcanic expedition on Saturday, Mitch found an incredible Japanese restaurant inside the Shangri-La Hotel, which is probably the fanciest hotel I’ve ever been in. Our sushi, vegetable, and fish selections were excellent. There were French and Italian restaurants inside, too, and our dessert at the Italian place consisted of red wine and crème brûlée over which the server poured flaming rum. Wow!

Every so often I re-realize how wonderful it is that Mitch and I are traveling and going to new places and trying new things. We really are lucky. Thanks for such a unique birthday gift, Mitch!

Update: Mitch read this post after I published it and made a couple embarrassing corrections. Firstly, Mount Bromo is an active volcano. Secondly, the volcano in the foreground of my photos is not actually Mount Bromo; Mount Bromo is the one to the left with the white cloud-like smoke floating above it. I think I honestly cut it out of most of my photos while I was taking them, but I swear I saw it! I just didn’t know what I was seeing, apparently. Oops . . .