.:DhalangCitra|thoughts & essays:.

Indonesia 2007



I finally decided to write a journal about my trip to Indonesia. Although Its quite unusual on my part to share my personal stories to others, it should serve as an experience to see how people would react. Anyway, the fact that I have been away from the motherland for quite sometime, I realized that many aspects had incrementally changed my stand on things, especially my perspective on Indonesia. I do not question the scope of my alternation but I would rather feel it grow naturally within me.

Ever since my arrival to Jakarta, there was nothing that really interests me. I didn’t leave the house after a week of staying home. I enjoyed my calm week nevertheless, and a privilege to have the company from with my little sisters; which is always pleasing to me. I had my reasons to come here and I couldn’t wait to work on that obligation. After spending another week of relaxation, my work finally began.

My days in Jakarta goes by relatively quick. Perhaps that’s because work is making me wake up 5 am everyday and return home by the next 13 hours. But things are beginning to fall into place. Work is taking away my boredom and I am getting way used to how life works here. After precisely spending 3 weeks in Jakarta, I finally initiated a trip, with my fellow friend Okta; a good friend from junior high. I would like to have the company of my brother, but time hasn’t been in our favor. Anyway, the tales that I will jot down are events that are important to me. Places that I have been wanting to see and finally saw it. I hope some of these tales can sparkle your interest as well.

Pelabuhan Sunda Kelapa

There are only a few things in this world that ignites my sensitivity. One of them is a site like Pelabuhan Sunda Kelapa, a port once significant in spice trade history. And for others, it was a threshold that introduces them to the New World.

We left for Sunda Kelapa at around 7 am and it took us about 30 minutes to get there. We left early just to avoid major trafic but luckily the day was empty and they traffic was bearable. We got lost for a bit but finally found our destination.

When I got to the main entrance of Sunda Kelapa, I could easily picture the whole dynamic of the port decades ago; merchants chanting their goods in hope of getting the best deal while natives stare at giant ships presented in front of them. I could just imagine myself in years 1500’s where the port was grand and full of ships from all over the world, where languages interchanged as frequent as globalization today. However, the lack of preservation efforts from the government, distorted my frame of thought at an instance. I could not continue my imagination as I stood there staring at ships parking, waiting for the next contract to Kalimantan. I could no longer see how such a place could be so important.

I have never been to this place before but I believe that the port has shrunk considerably. On the other side of the canal, houses has been built to accommodate Jakarta’s population growth. Houses are even built above the canal waters, which is an apparent symbol of Indonesia’s lingering social inequality. Is this why traders came to Indonesia? Where are the resources now?

Anyway, I decided to take a boat trip around the canal to see how people lived on the other side of the port. Devastation was felt as soon as you stepped into that boat. The water was opaque and dense, filled with anonymous garbage disposed by inhabitants. Since water is considered luxury goods, the port’s water was utilized for daily necessities: bath and bathroom. An unsurprising feature of life in the third world. There were quite a few sailors that were working on their ships. They stared at us as if they understood clearly the social gap between us. A representation that I did not wish to portray. But it was too obvious. There they were working while me, taking pictures. I was ashamed.

Museum of Fatahilah

We proceeded towards a local museum right around the block from the port. The museum is located at an old building that used to be owned by the colonists. I believe it was first occupied by the Portuguese then followed by the British and the Dutch. The old castle had ancient artifacts from the West. Some say that they building was used not only as the center for colonists but also had a hidden dungeon where most of our revolutionaries were detained. I happen to get into that prison accidentally. Hot and humid. Certainly unpleasant.

The building is now used to show case most of their belongings. Nothing from the Indonesians (well some but not so significant). The surrounding premises was quite pleasant, I could see many buildings of the ancient city. Unfortunately, the place is close to a ruin. Even the museum, many parts of the building are not well kept and are ready to collapse.

The funniest thing was that, when I visited the museum it was exactly during Jakarta’s 480th birthday and they had some parade organized outside the museum. At the show, I could not help but commented to my friend Okta who also happened to see many ambassadors sitting under the terrace while enjoying the show, “even up until today we are still serving the colonists…” That irony lingered in my head for quite a while that day.

So we walked around to see if there was anything worth purchasing. I bought some post cards which was pretty traditional. Just don’t know who to send it to. Anyway, the weather got too hot so we left after a having a batagor and some es campur. This will be the end of a trip for a while.



It wasn’t not until the end of my internship that I was able to leave the city of Jakarta. It was exactly on the 16th of August that I left with Jeremy, Eby, and Gia to the island of the gods. The trio had arrived on the 15th but weren’t able to see the metropolitan city, except for a little tour around the hotel. I wanted them to see what Jakarta had to offer but at that point our minds were already set for Bali.

I picked the trio as soon as I got off from work and went straight to the airport to catch the 8:25 p.m. flight. We got delayed for about 25 minutes but fortunately the wait ended up saving our lives. Jeremy’s and Eby’s missing luggage (a box of skateboards) finally arrived and was delivered immediately to our gate. Now, they both do not have to purchase any boards in Bali.

We arrived in Bali and was picked up by Eko and Anis. I am personally glad to finally meet them. Its been years since I last saw Eko. We got to the hotel and didn’t do much except for dinner and a couple of cold beers before heading to bed. Although I was tired, I was happy to finally see my brother who I have not seen in a very long time. We stayed up talking until around 4 a.m. and then continued each others’ company the next day.

The next day, Eko and Anis recommended us to go to Sanur, as one of the best places to snorkel, which is a priority in our to do list (well, I was then told that there was another area to snorkel but will take about more than an hour to get there, I don’t know if its really worth it besides we are running on a tight schedule). So we went over to the location and rented all the necessary equipments and of course the boat to take us to the spot. Snorkeling was unbelievable. This experience was everyone’s first attempt and we all seem to enjoy it. I have to say that jumping into the ocean with a strong current wasn’t a fun experience for the first 10 minutes. I could swear that I almost had a panic attack. My equipments were not as friendly as I thought it would be and adjusting the flippers was not an easy task! Nevertheless, I got to see a pool of fish swimming under and around my body. It felt incredible. The corals were just too magnificent and colorful to forget.

Swimming and jumping of the boat lasted for about an hour and then we headed towards the Turtle Island. I’ve been there before and I thought it would be nice to show the trio what the conservation was all about. It’s just a small island where locals safe sea turtles and help grow baby turtles until they are about 2-3 years of age and then release them into the ocean. Not only were we able to see some 60 something years of turtles but Eby and Gia were amazed when they finally saw a fruit bat. They even held it. And that I thought was surprising 🙂

Then it was time to come back to the beach where Taufik and Dini were waiting for us. Since it took us almost the whole day to snorkel, we thought it would be really nice to spend the rest of the evening watching the sunset. There was only one spot to see the beautiful sunset … that’s Dreamland.

We drove towards Dreamland and as soon as we got there we could here the music pumping and it seems that the rave fever is in the air. We got off the car and walked towards the foreseeable ocean. As soon as we got into the end of the cliff … my jaws dropped and couldn’t feel anything else except for an extreme feeling of joy. I didn’t waste time and rushed myself down a steep pathway towards the beach while visitors were already heading back towards their vehicles. I finally got to the beach … stunned by the waves and the tall reefs surrounding the beach. I stared at the falling sun … enjoyed the view with complete silence in my head. Sitting there with my brother right beside me was the most beautiful thing ever. I don’t know when I will have his company again. Sitting there and just having a beer while the sun starts to set was unbelievable. Then it sets and we left the beach. We didn’t really like the whole rave thing going on. Although the setting was wonderful … it was not what we were looking for.

Coming back from a long day of full activities, Eby and I headed out to skate after dinner. Dinner was sort of late but it did recharge our batteries. We started out skating at around 12 a.m. and ended the skate session at around 4:30 a.m. The night session around the beach, while everyone else is sleeping comfortably in their hotel beds, was all I wanted from this trip. We skated in a quite breezy night with a complete freedom. We cruised from Kuta beach all the way towards midtown area where all the five stars hotels are. The streets were smooth and every obstacles seems to be so easily tackled. We did get kicked out from several skate spots, but we know that there were going to be more spots available as we moved forward. And we were right: ledges, manual pads, transitions, gap-to-fire-hydrant, and many more. The only regret from that night was the fact that we did not bring any camera to document our session. We planned to come back the next day but never got the chance to. I guess somethings are meant to be memorized.

We know that the next day won’t be as easy as we thought. We all planned to wake up super early but everyone ended up waking at 11 a.m. We were tired and deserved a bit of rest. After all, this was a vacation. We didn’t know what to do until my friend suggested to head over to the Monkey Palace, where wild monkeys are conserved as part of the Hindu belief and as an effort to save wild animals. The Palace was humbling. I mean the palace was literary a temple on top of a cliff looking towards the vast ocean. I didn’t quite know where we were looking towards, but I’ve always thought that we might be looking at Australia. I might be wrong, who knows … So, here we were at the monkey palace and trying to play around for a little “spank” (that’s just a joke of course). We chased and fed them yucca as a way to get acquainted. But the whole act of trying to be “nice” to these monkeys was counter-productive for me. I was warned not to wear my glasses but did it because I thought I could be careful and believed that no monkey would jump up and grab my glasses. I lost sight at one location and VOOOMMM!!! The monkey stole it. She kept biting just to see if it was actually edible. I started calling the keeper and he chased down until she actually dropped my glasses. Overall, my glasses was alright except for a few tooth marks. Eby got the whole thing on tape. I gotta get that video and post it for you all.

Then the sun started to sink. Again I wanted to see every sunset in Bali. So I asked my friend if it was possible if we go down the cliff with our car and catch the sunset. It was all possible and we all run to the car so that we won’t be late for the Kecak Dance back at the temple. We drove down and hit the “surfer’s paradise” called Padang Padang. What’s amazing about this beach was that there weren’t any crazy tourists, it was sort of like a hidden spot for surfers. As we go to the foot of the beach, to my surprise, we had to walk into a cave before getting our feet wet. The cave was spectacular! never seen anything like it. The smell of salt water and the physical object of corals that goes up as high as a few meters stunned me. So we chilled and looked at the clear sea water for quite some time. We spotted sea creatures and was mesmerized by how beautiful they all looked. One bad thing about this trip was how we rushed getting to places. We stayed maximum half hour and we ran back to the car to catch the Kecak performance. Padang padang was too short. I really regret it.

I’ve planned several times to see a traditional Kecak dance. There must have been at least 3 times ever since I was in Bali. So I had to make this one a reality. The setting was perfect and this was the actual performance where they had people kicking fire balls. I had to drag everyone into the show. The performance was alright, but being myself (a perfectionist freak at certain times), I was a bit disappointed by what I saw. It was not the real deal. They were performing to entertain tourists and was not expressing the real art of Kecak. I kept my silence and ignored the performance quietly. Instead, I began staring at the sun that was sinking into the ocean and then starred at the sparkling stars above my head.

As the performance ended, I treated the trio a natural coconut drink outside the temple. Apparently, no one has actually tasted coconut milk, except maybe for Eby. It was wonderful but I wasn’t really in the mood to drink and ate none of it. There was just one more stop for the night. A national park that coincidentally was on the same way to our way home. The idea of the park was to narrate the history of Indonesia. Beginning from the earliest kingdoms until the present day. What’s interesting about this place is that the local government took an audacious step in dissecting an entire cliff and making it into several cubes, which will then be carved for the narration. And among these gigantic walls, a statue of a Hindu God, Wisnu, sitting on the symbol of our mythical bird stands firmly. Hence the name Garuda Wisnu Kencana (GWK) was derived for this auspicious site. Although the site is only 25% done, we can all imagine how large the statue will become once it is completed. It was getting really late, the only place available to eat was at the local restaurant. Beautiful. Had the best duck ever in my life. I cannot stop telling people about this dish.

The day was wonderful and we all went home with one souvenir: fatigue! I passed out immediately and returned to earth the following morning.

I felt that the slept I had gotten was exactly what I needed all along. I’ve been in Indonesia for about 2 months and a half and all I did was worked and never got the rest I deserved. And in addition, I completely forgot that my brother was also in the trip with us and yet I was not hanging out with him. So as soon as I woke up, I told Eby that I was going for a walk and inconspicuously called my brother to invite him for breakfast. I wanted at his hotel lobby, which was a block north from we were staying, and finally had coffee together. Breakfast was subtle but we spoke just like we used to when he was in NYC. I tried convincing him to come see the art market with us but he himself needed sometime alone.

So Eko and Anis showed up and we started our day towards the market. I was looking for something extraordinary but all the merchandises were such a cliché. We lasted no more than 30 minutes and left towards the waterfall. My friends had warned me about the trip to the waterfall. It will take us approximately 1 hour and a half. That bothered me a bit but deep inside I wanted to experience something different in Bali, something that is not touristy whatsoever. They were a bit hesitant but I said yes to the idea.

The road up the mountain was absolutely fun even though the trio thought it was a little suicidal. It started to drizzle and you can feel how slippery the road had become. I got frustrated … I questioned whether this whole trip was even worth it. But then suddenly, we saw wild monkeys roaming the street, sitting down along the curb waiting for some passenger in a vehicle to toss them with some food. There are some cute ones that I especially liked. I didn’t take a picture of it since it all happened relatively quick: a monkey sitting on a curb with its hand gesturing for some food. I thought it was funny. They are just as smart as we are.

The roller coaster ride ended. We got to the location and we all jumped out of the car not wasting any time. From where we parked we had to walk into a jungle-liked area and then into a local village. As I walked towards a vast range of trees and flowers, flashes of childhood memories began to appear before my eyes. I knew this was where I belong and forgot about all the regrets for coming all the way to this remote site. We walked and walked and then began to hear the sound of streams and splashes. I walked even faster and there it was … the Gitgit Waterfall. I was amazed and couldn’t believe how beautiful it looked. I ran to Eby who got to the location earlier and told him that I was going in … and so was he. We all jumped into the water and for me this was the highlight of my trip.

We got back to Legian and there was one last thing that we had to do before leaving. We had to go to Base skate park. So went and skated our asses off. After several slams, I knew the day was over for me. I stopped skating and instead cruised around the park. We got home exhausted and went straight to bed. Well not exactly, Eby and I had a long conversation up until 4 am.

I woke up early but was not in the mood for anything except for another breakfast with my brother. I left the hotel room while everyone a sleep and had a quite meal. Everyone decided to go to the beach for one last time. I stayed in the hotel and just wanted to be alone. I guess after all the commotion, I realized that my time in Indonesia has come to an end. I was mournful. Perhaps, I knew that I am really going to miss everything about Indonesia, my home, my family, and friends. When I leave I know that my youth will be slowly taken away. I didn’t like the feeling but I guess this is what I am meant to do. I have to stick to my decision and finish whatever that is needed to be done back in NYC.

It was getting close to our check-out time but no one arrived. Then not long after that the trio came back with smiles on their faces; They enjoyed Kuta beach. I am glad.

We all got in the car since we had to check in the airport by 2 p.m. We were rushing ourselves and I couldn’t say goodbye to my brother as he went back to sleep that day. I didn’t want to be in the car and so decided to ride my friend’s scooter to the airport. It was one of the most liberating feelings I have ever felt with the wind blowing into your face and with the versatility of the scooter, I felt like I could do anything in this world.

I know I might have missed out on several important occasions about the trip. However, somethings are probably best left untold and stored in our minds. We bid our farewell and returned to the mainland. Bali … we shall continue our adventure again, one day.

This trip would no have happened without the help of my good friends Eko and Anis. I am thankful to them for showing us their hospitality and kindness in taking us around their home 🙂

Thank you for the wonderful memories … look forward for the next trip.

bDj’ 09.07


January 29, 2008 - Posted by | Travel | , , , , ,

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