Archives for the month of: August, 2012

Discovering that an International Drivers License is required in Bali or you run the risk of being “interfered” with by the local police, I felt quite trapped, I don’t have one of those so, no motorcycle for me then. I opted instead for a lazy taxi south, seeking a quiet haven, a beach, a pool, a nice, comfortable bed. I found the bed and pool in Padang Padang, a small surfers town with a crowed beach. It was pretty, and much less touristed then Kuta. I felt it safer to rent a moto here for a day and drove around, enjoying the freedom of going, and stopping, whenever and wherever you want.

My meanderings took me to Uluwatu Temple. You’re not allowed into the actual temple itself but it perches majestically on a beautiful stretch of cliffs at the southernmost point of Bali.

The place is absolutely crawling with monkeys who are apparently quite the accomplished pick-pockets. I got lucky and nothing went missing though one did come after my flip flops at one point, while they were still firmly attached to my feet! I’m beginning to grow not so fond of monkeys, especially after my experience on Pualu Weh, at least the ones that are used to being fed by humans that is, they’re cheeky. Looking back I realize I never shared this little story with you, suffice to say I got chased by a very pissed off, very muscular monkey, I won the pissing match by raising my arms above my head and screaming at him. I was the bigger monkey that day.

I enjoyed the surrounding areas of the temple, wandering along the cliffs edge, away from the well trodden path, I ran across grazing cows, birds and some dramatic views.

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Well said.

I showed up sick to Bali (as mentioned in my last post), fortunately it didn’t last too long and within a day I was feeling back to “normal”. But normal still wasn’t very good. Still tired, ear infected and feeling downright out of it and done with it all.

I was in Kuta of all places, and it’s a nightmare of a place at the best of times, filled with the worst of all travelers excesses, day-glo mushroom bars, drunken teens, t-shirts and bumper stickers loudly proclaiming that so and so is a fag, or sucks dick, or worse. The local people constantly yelling at you to come into their shops to buy this crap (what must they think of us?) or clamoring to provide transport, transport, transport.  To be dealing with this in my state of mind was appalling, yet it took me 4 days to muster up enough energy to get myself the hell out of Dodge.

I spent my time there either reading a book on the beach, trying to ignore the frenetic posturings of hyperactive/drunk kids or walking around looking for photos opportunities and graffiti. Also finally, planning ahead for a change and making reservations on Nusa Lembongan, for what I hope will be an entire week of relaxation and restoration of my body and soul. But first, I need to get out of Kuta.

Construction heads.

Afternoon blues.

Bali Demon.

Some more of my street photography efforts, round 2. These were all taken either in Singapore or Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

As always your opinions, advice, comments and critiques are very welcome.

He was so engrossed in his magazine it didn’t matter that I wasn’t prepared. I literally had to pull my camera out of my purse, turn it on, adjust the light setting and framing and THEN I finally took the picture. He didn’t notice a thing.

This man didn’t notice me either, possibly because he’s so sleepy?

He looked up right at the last second, I quite like his response.

I’m not sure if this man notices anything, let alone me.

He had his back to me, looking off into the distance. I was all prepared, camera in hand and preset for the light, yet somehow his spidey sense must have tingled, he turned around right as I took the shot. Nice smile though.

I think she was ignoring me. I was trying to pretend to shoot something behind her. Not sure if this works or not but the kid is adorable.

I grabbed these guys in motion.

This last one is in colour, I think it works better that way. She JUST woke up.

I desperately want to go up a volcano, I want to peer over the edge into a crater. I want to see lava boiling, maybe even some smoke billowing. Alas, I have this $*?%& up knee, and I can’t manage all the UP and DOWN that its required to get a glimpse of something not too  touristed. So, I book a tour, I have to acknowledge that it’s the only way I’m getting up and close with a volcano.

This tour will take me (and about half the other tourists in Indonesia right now, or at least it feels that way) direct from Yogyakarta to Bromo (Cemoro Lawang actually), a full days drive, and then onwards to Denpasar on Bali, another full days drive, and a ferry thrown in for good measure.

In Cemoro Lawang  we will spend the night in a pre-arranged hotel of dubious cleanliness (though there is a promise of hot water), wake up at 3:00am, and be driven to a viewpoint to observe the volcano during sunrise. We drive in a 40-year-old jeep that would probably give us carbon monoxide poisoning if it was actually possibly to seal the windows shut.

After watching said sunrise with approximately 200 other people from a very crowded platform, everybody jostling trying to get the “perfect” photo,  we will then be driven back down the very bumpy road and across a dusty, ashy plain until we get as close as possible to the base of the volcano where we are given the option of paying for an ill-tempered pony or walking up the trail that leads to the steep 250 stairs that take you to the top. These stairs are practically invisible due to the build up of volcanic ash on them. The ash and the dust  billows wildly around us in the gusting wind as we climb single file up the “stairs” hands clutching at broken handrails and using shirts/scarves/whatever is handy to cover our mouths.

Once at the top we are greeted by a very smelly pile of rotting garbage and so many people milling about catching their breath that we are all in danger of being bumped over the (barrier free) edge, either back down the outside or, more terrifyingly, actually INTO the gaping black maw of this, still active, volcano.

You can follow a single file path in either direction away from the mob at the stairhead, though god help you if you meet up with someone who wants to pass you in the opposite direction. From the single file pathway you can gaze down into the deeply shadowed pit of the volcano, the steeply sloping sides covered in various corn husks, flower offerings, candy wrappers and the ubiquitous plastic bags. This litter may have something to do with offerings to “feed” the volcano so it doesn’t get hungry/angry (aka hangry) and erupt. Ok, that’s fine, I don’t want to insult anybodies religious beliefs but damn it looks really ugly.

Finally, due to the fact that it’s REALLY early in the morning, the sun is at such an angle that it’s not high enough yet to actually light up the inside of the gaping hole you came to see, it’s all in shadow.

After this you have to climb back down the precarious stairs, or you can do what I did and say screw it, to hell with my knees, suck up the pain, I’m hopping/running/bounding down this freaking volcano! So I did. And I got yelled at by my fellow tourists for “stirring up the ashes.” Oh um, I though it was the GALE FORCE WIND that was doing that?

After making it down off the volcano and trudging however many meters back to where the jeeps are parked, that’s right jeeps, about 100 of them. Who knows which one is yours? But find it you must, and while waiting for the rest of your group you empty about 2 kilos of the  sand, dust and ash combination out of your filthy socks and shoes.

Driven back to the hotel where buffet breakfast is included, and it’s not bad, especially since you’ve been up for about 5 hours without any food or coffee. So looking forward to that promised hot shower you head into your room and turn on the shower head. Nothing. Not even cold water. Oh. You go find the man who last night VOLUNTEERED the information about there being hot water available in the morning, something that you hadn’t been expecting but once you heard about it were pretty thrilled to hear as its COLD here. But no, no hot water, in fact see that bucket, and that scoop? There you go. Fine, at least it’ll get the dust off.

Back onto the bus for a full day with a lunch break, sleeping for most of it. Waking up about half an hour before you arrive in Denpasar (Bali, finally!) and feeling very ill. Vomitous in fact. Keeping your shit together as some nice people you met during the journey arrange the half hour taxi ride to Kuta and, once there, find you a hotel that has a decent bathroom so you can finally throw up, yay. You feel better after, thank goodness, and sleep for about 10 hours.

Sunrise View

The Approach

Almost at the stairs

View of the crater (note the garbage)

Looking back.

Alright, I admit it,that IS pretty!

Ok, so this post is a little tongue-in-cheek. I know, the sarcasm is dripping and my bitchy side has come out. It wasn’t THAT bad. Keeping in mind that everything I have said is true, if you could manage for a moment to block out the crowds, the garbage, the ice-cold mandi bath in 10 degree Celsius weather and the dust storm on the stairs it was actually really beautiful.

And normally I would be able to handle all that stuff  a whole lot better. But I’m really tired, burned out, travel-fatigued and, quite frankly, kinda homesick. I’ve been on the road for almost 4 months. Ive had this lingering ear infection, I feel tired constantly and honestly, I feel over it. This is not good. I’m supposed to spend upwards of another year on the road, how can I possibly get myself back into happy travel mode?  It’s time to stop and rest up for a bit. For real. So I have a plan. More on that soon.

I was on a mission to visit Borobudur for sunrise. Not to view it from a hill across the valley but to actually be ON it as the sun rises. This was more expensive to arrange then I expected and perhaps didn’t quite live up to my hopes but it was still lovely and led to a few decent photos.

A few facts, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Borobudur is a 9th century Buddhist Monument.

The monument consists of six square platforms topped by three circular platforms, and is decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues.

A main dome, located at the center of the top platform, is surrounded by 72 Buddha statues seated inside a perforated stupa.

Originally I only planned to spend a couple days in Yogyakarta but between the amazing street art I found there, the various other attractions, and just how darn much I liked it, it ended up being about 5 days, and could have been much longer!

I visited the Affandi museum, which was once his home. A surrealistic property, which reminded me of the Crazy House I once saw in Dalat. I like his work, very energetic, bold and emotive.

A piece by the great Indonesian Expressionist painter, Affandi.

I had a visit to the Kraton (disappointingly abandoned and virtually culturally empty IMHO) and also the nearby Water Gardens.  Unfortunately the pools were empty and being repaired when I visited so it wasn’t so inspiring either, especially in the heat of the midday. But I did get to go underground into this (now unused) mosque, it was quite cool and quiet down there, very nice.

Inside Masjid Bawah Tanah, the underground Mosque at Taman Sari (the Water Gardens).

While I was at the Water Gardens I got to watch this man making Traditional Indonesian Shadow Puppets. They are made out of leather which he punches holes into.

Making shadow puppets (Wayang Kulit).

While wandering around town I couldn’t help but notice this wild sculpture…

Very interesting public art piece.

I was constantly hounded to buy Batik, come into my gallery etc. etc. But every gallery I went into had basically the same works, except for these, so I bought them! (Sorry about the poor quality of the photo)

Some new art for when I have walls again, someday.

I also went to the Bird Market, LP makes a big deal out of this place, I’m not sure why. It did afford some picture taking opportunities, but I did not like seeing all the dogs, cats, bunnies and other animals all caged up.

Bird Market

As I walked around town I couldn’t miss seeing these, so colourful, so manic and so frightening!

Javanese Demon Masks.

I also paid a sunrise visit the legendary Borobudur Temple. That deserves it’s own photo gallery though, so you can see it here.

I was, and had been for quite a while, really exhausted and knew I needed some serious R’ n R’ . So I finally left Yogya and started to head out of Java. With a pretty much mandatory quick overnight stop at  Bromo Volcano, I was on my way to Bali and the beach.

I’m currently in Yogyakarta and I’m so amazed by the street art here. I find it hidden, tucked down tiny lanes and it’s also glaringly out there, slathered all over main thoroughfares. I’m loving it. Graffiti has long been a favorite art form of mine, not the senseless sloppy scribbling of a monotone tag, but the glorious, colourful statements that I wish I could transfer to a canvas and take home to hang on my wall. Street art has a bad reputation at home, many people still consider it vandalism and either remove it or paint over it quickly, but I personally think many a boring blank concrete block wall has been vastly improved by the work of a talented spray painter. All forms of art will elicit an emotion or provoke a thought, graffiti is the same. Whether it be creepy or cheerful, humorous or political, graffiti can make you think, make you smile or just be a beautiful image to enjoy. In my opinion this is a vastly underrated art form. What do you think?