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Trip Report A Memorable Solo Month in Singapore, Java, and Bali

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My trip to Singapore, central and eastern Java, and Bali was absolutely wonderful, filled with of the kinds of moments that make me stop to say, “OMG, how is it possible that I am fortunate enough to experience these things?!?” What an awesome and fascinating part of the world, and what a memorable month!

I offer my most sincere thanks to the many people who helped me plan this trip, whether by responding to my questions or by sharing information through other means – you all contributed to what was, for me, a journey through awe-inspiring places and an itinerary that very successfully indulged my interests.
• Special thanks to Kathie and marmot, who generously and patiently shared their extensive knowledge of these areas.
• “Honorable mention” to those who provided information that helped me adjust my itinerary to include some special moments – AskOksena (robert), crellston, gr21, and tripplanner001.
• Many of you shared ideas about food and drink, including CaliNurse, jactetwatch (Larry), ms_go, Nelson, Rich, Smeagol, thursdaysd, and Tontorino.
• I appreciated advice about my overall trip routing and flight arrangements from doug_stallings, FromDC, Kay2, MinnBeef, Odin, and progol (Paule).
• And I was grateful to receive other tips from dugi_otok, Guenmai, and trotsky.
I can’t say I took full advantage of the information that any of you gave, but I am confident that my trip was far better because of your input. Fodorites ROCK!

I’ll begin with a bit about me for context:
• This was a 1-month trip. 

• I’m a reasonably experienced solo independent female traveler.
• This was my first trip to each of these areas and my first trip south of the equator. (I’ve been to Asia before, but well north of the equator – Japan, northern China, and South Korea.)
• I plan my trips with an eye to maximizing the diversity of my experiences. My tastes are fairly eclectic, but not entirely indiscriminate: I typically enjoy art, architecture, historic ruins, museums, religious structures, parks and gardens, natural scenery, buildings of state or defense (e.g., palaces and fortresses), markets (for their atmosphere, not for shopping), picturesque villages, good food and wine, folk traditions, and the chance to see and experience other parts of the world.
• I generally don’t seek opportunities to relax (relying on meals and time in transit for that). Instead, I hope to take full advantage of every moment I have on the road!
• I’m not a shopper, but I do buy gifts for family and friends when abroad, preferrably as close to the end of my trip as possible.
• I learned a few phrases in Indonesian before my trip – not much, not well, and with a focus on civilities.

My plan for this TR is to
• Summarize my final itinerary and
• Offer my observations on the best and worst of the trip, overall;
• Provide a bit more detail about my time in Singapore and
• Offer some observations about the best and worst of my time in Singapore (insofar as my bests & worsts differ from those for the trip as a whole, or if something seems to me worthy of special mention);
• Provide a bit more detail about my time in Java and the best and worst of that part of my trip;
• And finally, provide a bit more detail about my time in Bali and the best and worst of that part of my trip.
Questions are welcome at any time!

Here’s my final itinerary:
• I left the eastern U.S. on Qatar Airways for Singapore, taking an early evening flight with a short stopover in Doha (less than 4 hours)
• Singapore: 5 nights at the Adonis Hotel (about 4.5 days)
• Borobudur: 3 nights at the Manohara Resort (about 2 days)
• Yogyakarta: 2 nights at the Phoenix Hotel (about 2 days)
• Surakarta: 3 nights at the Royal Surakarta Heritage (about 2.5 days)
• Blitar: 2 nights at the Hotel Tugu Blitar (not quite 2 days)
• Malang: 2 nights at the Hotel Tugu Malang (over a full day, if not quite 1.5 days)
• Bromo: 1 night at the Lava View Lodge (an evening and part of a morning)
• Ubud, 1st stay: 6 nights at the Kampoeng Joglo Abangan (more than 4 days)
• Bunutan / Amed: 1 night at the Bali Dream House (an evening and a morning)
• Ubud, 2nd stay: 2 nights at the Ubud Tropical Garden (not quite 2 full days)
• I left Ubud on Qatar Airways for the eastern U.S. on an late afternoon flight with a long stop in Doha (close to 9 hours)

If it helps, here are my key, final planning threads:

With that, here’s what I liked best about the trip as a whole:
• The warm welcome I received from SOOooooo many people -- in Singapore and in Java and in Bali – such kindness! :-)

• The chance to see and experience an incredibly diverse range of things! Granted, I plan my trips with a focus on incorporating a wide range of options, but even so, my experiences on this trip exceeded my hopes! I was priveliged to experience an extraordinary range of:

... Natural environments (even if shaped by man)! From the spectacular ash- and steam-spewing volcanos of Bromo (Java) to the, flooded rice fields in Java and Bali; from the shaded forests of central Java to the voluptuously and impossibly steep potato and peanut terraces of central Java and the Jatiluwih rice terraces of Bali; from the boiling cauldrans of the Sikidang Krator on the Dieng Plateau (Java) to the nearly still waters of a the Telaga Pacuh “sacred pool” near Blitar (Java)…. And the night sky, with such bright stars (I live in a city) and unfamiliar constellations! I could go on and on….

... Man-made environments, ancient and modern! From the breathtaking Borobudur mandala to Singapore’s modern architecture; from the traditional homes of central Java to the village compounds of Bali; from Singapore’s shophouses through the kratons of Indonesia; …

... Performing arts! From high tech light shows to dance and martial arts lessons taught in the coolness of Singapore’s subways; from the highly stylized Ramayana Ballet and Balinese legong to puppet shows, whether 2-D (wayang kulit) or 3-D (wayang golek), from the gamelan to the wayang orang….

... And speaking of gamelan, so many wonderful sounds! Gamelan orchestras and musicians; the sound of the gentle surf shifting the pebbles of the beach along the Amed coast; the whisk! of a woman’s machete cutting a swathe of ripe rice plants; the oddly engaging calls of the small lizards who shared several hotel rooms with me; and OMG, the adult males – from late teens and up! – who provided the chorus for the Kecek in Junjungan Village….

... Religious sanctuaries and traditions! From the ancient Buddhist and Hindu ruins of Java to the stunning Hindu temples of Bali, from grand mosques to the tiny Armenian church in Singapore, from koi pond of Singapore’s cathedral to the glorious waterworks of Bali’s sacred water temples…. And it wasn’t just the structures, but also the ongoing practice of differing religions – Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, hints of anamism…. I hadn’t previously been anywhere with Hindu temples, and found myself deeply moved by what I saw, including several ceremonies and celebrations. And I was very deeply impressed by the respectful coexistence of religions in the places I visited – so inspiriing!

... The tastes! So many unfamiliar fruits and so many delicious meals! Wow! I had the option of “upscale Western” almost everywhere I went, and I rarely (but occasionally) made that choice. More frequently, I took the opportunity to savor local options. From the black-pepper crab of Singapore through the grilled carp of central Java, from the various curried dishes everywhere, and the nearly daily “OMG, what is this amazingly delicous fruit!” moments I encountered from day – WOW!

... The scents! From night-blooming shrubs in Singapore to the incense offerings in Ubud; from food stalls to spice markets; from the chocolate plantation outside Blitar to the coffee plantation outside Ubud... and so many more!

... Massages! Let me start by noting that before this trip, I had never – ever! – had a professional massage. But the idea of an affordable massage half-way there (in the spa within Doha's airport) appealed, and many of my guidebooks offered positive comments about the massages in Java and Bali. I must say that I welcomed a 30-minute massage after a 15-hour flight! And then, well, the prices for treatments at my hotels were so low, how could I not?!?

... So many interactions with non-humans! -- Birds feeding from my hand at the Lory House of the Jurong Bird Park in Singapore; riding a “small horse” at Gedong Songo, swimming with fish over the reef near Amed (Bali); trying to keep monkeys from my water bottle at the Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud; …

... Markets! Fruits and vegetables, fish, meat, prepared foods, textiles (OMG, such glorious textiles!), birds, flowers, baskets – all so colorful! -- spices, traditional medicines, and (it sometimes seemed) anything that could legally be bought or sold.

Bottom line: I encountered a few nice things on this trip. :-)

That said, not everything was a delight. So here’s my list of what I liked LEAST about the trip as a whole:

• The heat and humidity. I do not deal well with humid heat. At all. And OMG, it was HOT and HUMID!!! :-(

• The flight. Honestly, I’m not aware of anything that an airline can do to make a 15 or 16 hour flight in steerage (aka economy) pleasant, but OMG, those flights were long and hard to tolerate!

• The difficulty in finding affordable wine, particularly in Java, but also in Bali, and even in Singapore. It’s quite understandable – there is no local wine industry, and the cost of importing wine is non-trivial, so I mention the issue not to complain, but just to provide information….

• A seeming fondness of some Idonesian restaurants for hosting bands that play decades-old “golden oldies” from the U.S. that did so (sorry, but honestly) quite badly. IMO, there’s something incredibly pathetic about “Don't Worry, Be Happy" when played too slowly and off-key. :-( JMO.

• Did I mention the oppressive heat and humidity? Awful…!

Hmmm ... it seems that my "liked least" list is shorter than my "liked most" list! If you think that's because I covered Singapore, Java, AND Bali in these lists, you'll have to read on. ;-)

178 Replies | Jump to bottom Add a Reply
  • Report Abuse

    Oh good, I've been waiting for this.

    Surprised you hadn't tried massage before. I see a massage therapist regularly - if it wasn't for her and my chiro my upper back would have seized up long ago!

    I think the only solution to the pain of long flights in cattle class is to pretend we're on an inter-stellar exploration. Put everyone to sleep and stack them up.

    Waiting to hear about Singapore...

  • Report Abuse

    Unbelievable – within hours, so many encouraging comments from delightful vicarious travel companions!

    @ MaryW: I don’t think you’ll find much about ceramics in this report, except for a bit about … well, you’ll have to wait! Hint: in Singapore. (OK, I give: In Singapore’s Asian Civilizations Musuem. I thought of you while there!)

    @ dgunbug: Thanks for your kind words! I hope you continue to find reason to read on.

    @ sartoric: Really, heat and humidity can be daunting, can’t they? I’ve already said it; I will say it again. Often.

    @ thursdaysd: I like the idea of the interstellar-like biomolecular suspension! Do post a trip report after your first such trip. ;-)

    The problem with having now experienced several massages is, of course, that I want to have more – MORE, MORE, MORE!!! I’m sure I would enjoy every one! But every one will cut into my savings for my next trip. :-(

    @ Kathie: Although my experience is limited, oh yes, those Indonesian massages were wonderful! I’m also glad I partook! :-)

    More to come....

  • Report Abuse

    It has been a while since I was last in Singapore. I've been going there since my first overseas trip at 16 - back in the dark ages. Its certainly changed but then so has everywhere. I still like it and now have a brother living there but don't get there often. I know the collection at the Museum and must get back for another look some time. I look forward to your impressions of both it and the city. I'm really looking forward to all the things that don't have to do with ceramics!

  • Report Abuse

    Awesome, kja. It brings me joy to learn that you came away from a special part of the globe with the experiences you had. And I love the way you bring it to life for us; it's so different from the other reports yet so much fun.

  • Report Abuse

    Wonderful! I've been looking forward to reading your report!

    As you may remember, I had initially planned a trip to this region but had to cancel. Now, when we finally do go, I'll have the advantage of a kja trip for planning! Many thanks for taking the time to write this up.

  • Report Abuse

    @ MaryW: I’m glad you know the ceramics of the Asian Civilizations Museum – they are impressive! And I'm glad you are joining me for another trip.

    @ tripplanner001: Thanks for the kind words! It is a special part of the globe, and I’m delighted to think that I can help bring it to life for you and others.

    @ progol: I do recall that you had planned to take a similar trip before life interfered and hope that you are able to get to Indonesia some day – it is worth seeing! At least you got to see Sicily in the meantime -- another worthy destination!

    @ jdc: Thank you for your patience! I hope you continue to enjoy my report.

    OK, now for some specifics!

    Day 0: I departed the U.S. on an evening flight and,
    Day 1: Flight, continued
    • After a really, really, REALLY long flight in an economy class seat – close to 13 hours -- I
    • landed in Doha and
    • headed to the spa for a reserved massage. As already noted, I was a massage newbie, but I had studied the spa’s website, so I knew that (a) bathing suits or appropriate lingerie were apparently to be worn everywhere within the spa and (b) the oils and lotions used in massages could damage clothing. So I had bought a cheap bathing suit just for my masssage. Once in the spa, I
    • showered, changed into my new bathing suit, and met my masseuse ... who seemed a bit surprised that I was wearing a bathing suit. (It had seemed a strange idea! ;-) ) Out of the bathing suit and
    • onto the table and
    • OH that was nice! Afterwards, I
    • soaked in a jacuzzi, dressed, and
    • found a place near my departure gate to have a glass of wine before boarding yet another flight.

    Day 2: First parial day in Singapore -- Arab Street and the Zoo

    • After another 8 or 9 hours in the air :-(, I landed in Singapore and
    • took a shared van to my hotel, admiring the trees and flowers along the road into the city. It was mid-morning when I reached
    • my hotel; as expected, my room was not immediately available, so
    • I left ASAP to explore the area -- lots of shophouses! :-) and the

    Arab Street area – the Sultan Mosque, Malay Heritage Center, and more shophouses.
    • While at the Malay Heritage Center, I asked a question … and the next thing I knew, a curator was at my side. He spent at least an hour with me, sharing all sorts of fascinating information about the building, collection, and grounds. :-)
    • Oddly, the walk back to my hotel seemed FAR longer than the walk to the Arab St. area. :-( Go figure!

    • My room was now available, so I settled in and showered. While in Singapore, I stayed at the Adonis Hotel, which I wholeheartedly recommend for those who want a well-located budget option with helpful staff and some greatly appreciated perks, such as
    • a free happy hour. :-) After a welcome glass of wine, I

    • took a taxi to the Singapore Zoo,
    • waited through some VERY long lines for the train through the park (OMG, the marked lanes have a butt-rest rail! Life can be GOOD! :-) ),
    • and was very glad to see the many animals that can be seen after sunset in the safety and convenience afforded by the train, and with kudos to the narrator who made sure to tell us what we were seeing. I then
    • walked some of the well-marked paths, finding many interesting animals along the way.
    • I particularly enjoyed the fisher cats: Their enclosure included a stream and some ponds, in which turtles and fish swam. One of the cats would sit at the edge, intently looking among the turtles for a fish, and then prepare to pounce and ... relax. Prepare! Relax. Prepare! Relax ... all without taking its eyes from the pond. And then, like any cat I've ever known, it would suddenly decide it needed to be elsewhere IMMEDIATELY and jump off into the surrounding vegetation. I never did see one catch a fish! ;-)
    • I attended the rather hocky show. It seemed great for kids and there were many children in the audience who seemed thrilled. Too, it was nice to see the delight the parents took in making it possible for their children to have those moments. :-)
    • I succumbed to hunger and ate a BongoBurger, and then, finally,
    • a long taxi ride brought me back to my hotel and some much needed sleep.

    To be continued….

  • Report Abuse

    You're welcome. If you are ever back in Doha on a longer layover, the Museum of Islamic Arts is well worth a visit. Seems like the zoo is well laid out; I decided to skip it on my visit to Singapore given the limited time we had.

  • Report Abuse

    Great report so far, kja. Have never been to any of those places, although my company's Asian headquarters are in Singapore, so I will be particularly interested in your experiences there, in case work travel ever affords me the opportunity to travel there,

  • Report Abuse

    @ Lolazahra: I got some great info on those planning threads, didn’t I?! Glad you enjoyed them and hope you enjoy reading this thread, too.

    @ thursdaysd: The taxi to and from the zoo was a great idea, but I can’t take credit for it: My hotel staff strongly recommended it, and I only agreed because I thought there was a real possibility, given jet lag, of falling asleep while on public transportation. I’m very glad I heeded their advice!

    @ tripplanner001: I would like to see Doha’s Museum of Islamic Arts. In fact, part of the reason for the nearly 9-hour layover I had on the way back was to visit it, but it turns out that it’s important, when booking a flight, to pay careful attention to whether the landing is just about noon or just about midnight. Oops!

    @ Kathie: If I’m reminding you of it, I hope you enjoyed your first trip to Singapore! As I understand it, Singapore has undergone some substantial transformations over the years; I would think it would be interesting to see the changes, too.

    @ MinnBeef: Thanks for the kind words! I hope you find information in this report that would help you make a decision should you find yourself with an opportunity to visit this part of the world. It’s nothing like Japan – or at least, I find it quite different! – but it definitely has its merits.

  • Report Abuse

    @ jdc: What a lovely compliment – thank you!

    @ Mara: Thanks, and welcome to the journey!

    @ rje: It was a fantasic trip! Thanks for reading.

    Day 3: Singapore -- the Jurong Bird Park and Chinatown
    • After a delicious breakfast, I
    • walked around “my” neighborhood a bit before going to the
    Jurong Bird Park, which I loved! :-) (Thanks for making sure it was on my list, Kathie!) The highlight, for me, was feeding the birds of the Lory House, where stunningly beautiful birds sat on my hand, arm, shoulder -- even my head! -- to feed from a cup of liquid (available for sale just inside the entrance to this aviary). Awesome! One of the birds decided to nibble at one of my fingers, and (I'm glad to say) did so with surprising gentleness.
    • I also enjoyed many other parts of this delightful park – the peafowl, toucans and hornbills, owls, roseate spoonbills ... their colors and calls, the sounds as they moved and the sounds of the waterfall …
    • a show that featured gorgeous parrots and macaws and others, which I enjoyed at least as much as the many enthralled children; and
    • part of a show with birds of prey, which was, unfortunately, interrupted by rain.
    • After sipping a beer, I went on to

    • Singapore’s Chinatown, and its
    ... fascinating Chinatown Heritage Centre -- WELL worth seeing, IMO; the
    ... Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, which seemed to hold nearly as many tourists as Buddhas, and that's a LOT; and the
    ... Hindu Sri Mariamman Temple nearby -- the first practicing Hindu temple I'd ever seen. I must admit that it wasn't quite what I expected. I'm not sure how to put my reaction in words -- I think it was something about the colors, which seemed out of place to my eye, more Disney than Deva.... (I mean no offense in saying so -- I'm just commenting on my experience.) But I appreciated the sense of the spirituality of the place, and the reverence of those who offered thanks or sought blessing or otherwise approached.
    • I strolled through the area briefly before going to
    • Chinatown’s “Food Street,” where I opted for an open-air table at a restaurant serving a local specialty -- fresh black pepper crab. Delicious! :-)
    • And then back to my hotel for the night, tired but happy.

    Day 4: Singapore … the Botanic Gardens, Little India, and Supertree Grove
    • My first stop of the day, after a tasty breakfast was
    • the Singapore Botanic Gardens. OMG, what I wonderful place! Despite the heat and humidity – the horrendous heat and humidity! :-( – I explored many areas devoted to specific kinds of plants (foliage, evolution, rain forest, bromeliads, etc.) and, of course,
    • the extensive and absolutely stunning orchid garden. Let’s put this in perspective: Over the years, I have nearly passed out every time I have visited an orchid house because the heat and humidity overwhelm me. But here, in the Singapore Botonic Gardens, there is no hothouse for the orchids – just acre after acre in which the beautiful blooms are perfectly happy because Singapore IS hot and humid. If there is a hothouse in this huge botanic garden, I missed it. I did find
    • the small “cool” house where mountain vegetation is on view. It was hard to leave that little place!
    • With LOTS of water and some breaks, I enjoyed a few more areas within these glorious gardens (gingers, medicinals, spices, bougainvillea, etc.) before
    • finding a place for a welcome beer. From there, I went to:

    Little India, where I
    ... visited the colorful, and nearly empty Sri Srinivasa Perusal Temple;
    ... the also colorful Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, with its many shrines and varying depictions of Kali and a number of worshippers;
    ... roamed the shophouses of Little India, some of which had delightful ornamentation;
    ... ventured into the Mustafa Centre. (I needed some blister prevention materials, which, I am pleased to report, generally worked quite well). This center holds an incredibly diverse array of goods crammed into what seemed an extremely well organized space. And then
    ... briefly explored the outdoor fringes of the Tekka Market, where flowers and fruits and vegetables formed enticingly colorful arrays. From there,
    • I returned to my hotel in time for a VERY welcome happy hour. :-)
    • After freshening up (much needed!), I went to

    • the Marina Bay Sands with the idea of having a light meal somewhere with a view. I ended up at
    • Sky on 57 for sliders and crudities – what an overpriced, overhyped option! Even late in the evening, the outdoor area was so hot and humid that I couldn't bring myself to eat there. The food wasn’t great, my seat was uncomfortable, and the views were blocked by other people and by reflections from the lights. I thought it a HUGE waste – except, of course, that I wanted to give it a try, so I guess I can’t really complain…. And obviously, my opinion is not shared by all -- it gets great reviews (and I’m glad that jacketwatch enjoyed a meal there).

    • Despite a surprising lack of clear signage, I finally made my way to
    • the Supertree Grove – and was glad I did: Cool! (As in: Nice! Make no mistake: It was still ridiculously hot and humid.) I was too late for the light show, but the trees were still lit, so I had some quiet moments with these structures that are, IMO, much more interesting at night than during the day.
    • And finally, back to my hotel.

    To be continued….

  • Report Abuse

    Awesome that you made it to both the Botanic Gardens and Gardens by the Bay. In addition to the Supertrees, the domed gardens are well worth the time should you return. Also agree with you on the Chinatown Heritage Center. We didn't make it to Jurong Bird Park, but it sounds from your description that it would be a place we would enjoy very much (we visited the one in KL and loved it).

  • Report Abuse

    I have the same feeling about Hindu temples (and I have seen quite a few), but then I remember that Greek temples were painted bright colors back in the day. And the second Hindu temple built in my area was stark white when I saw it, and it looked quite strange like that.

  • Report Abuse

    @ tripplanner001: I believe the applicable expression is, “Oh ye of little faith!” Of course I visited the domed gardens! Just later in this visit – on my “day 6.”

    @ thursdaysd: Your idea about the colors could be right. I agree that currently used temples made of bare stone look odd. Too, I’ve seen depictions of the colors originally used on ancient Greek and Mayan temples, and actual remnants of colors on parts of a few Mayan temples and Christian churches, and each time, I had to stop and rethink. Still, what struck me about the Hindu temples I saw in Singapore (which were very different than those in Bali) was something about the quality of the paint – something about the paint itself seemed more artificial than natural. Just my perception, though, and I'm certainly glad to have seen them!

  • Report Abuse

    ; Glad you got to see the domed gardens.

    Re: the colors of the Hindu temples, I don't know if it's the same everywhere. I seemed to notice that the brightness of the colors were more subdued in Sri Lanka, which made the places seem more "real" to me. On the contrary, some of the Buddhist temples there had the intensive colors that you mentioned.

  • Report Abuse

    Loving your report! You visited some of my favorite places in Singapore.

    My first trip to Singapore, as we were flying in a man leaned over and asked me whether I'd been there before. I said no, this was my first trip. He replied "You won't like it - it is not like it used to be." lol - that was back in the mid 1980s - and it isn't like it was back then either!

    I'm thinking we have to make time for a longer stay in Singapore next trip, as we haven't made it to the Gardens by the Bay.

  • Report Abuse

    kja, tripplanner001 and thursdaysd,

    Regarding the ways Hindu temples are painted in India:

    I gave this subject some thought during our recent trip to India. Particularly in Southern India. I remembered that the first time I ever saw Hindu temples, I too initially found some of them "cartoonish" looking.

    But there is another factor. The look of the paint can also vary depending on who painted them. I'm not talking about temples in different regions, but just different individual temples in the same region. I saw temples which had pretty much the same carvings as others nearby, but the paint had been applied so crudely by whoever did it that they looked of less quality, if that makes sense. And sometimes the actual nature of the paint used --- the shades and brilliance of the paint differed, and some paints used were more shiny or more matte than others. All of these things affect how the finished temple looks.

    And of course age usually softens the colors of the paint, and weather creates texture, making it look more subtle, and to me, better.

    I think many of us learned to expect a certain look from antiquities, but as you point out, they looked very different when they were new. And I think I actually prefer them looking old!

  • Report Abuse

    @ tripplanner001, thursdaysd, & rje: Isn’t the use of color in different cultures and contexts fascinating? I hope I get to see some of the many temples each of you has seen. (Stunning photo, thursdaysd -- thanks so much!) And I think rje may have articulated part of what I was experiencing – an unexpectedly texture-less quality to at least some of the paint I saw. I need to go back to see if that’s it!

    @ dgunbug: Thanks! I must admit that my initial expectation was that 3 days would be enough for me for Singapore. I didn’t realize how much time I would want to spend at the various gardens or parks, or how many things I would find to enjoy. I’m very glad that a glitch with my flights meant that I spent an extra day there!

    @ Kathie: I’m gald you are enjoying my report! I think you will enjoy the Gardens by the Bay when you get the chance to see them -- give yourselves lots of time!

  • Report Abuse

    The paint discussion reminds me of the shock I got watching the Brother Cadfael mysteries on TV - those medieval buildings looked so different when they were new! And also of visiting the Geffrye Museum in London. Turns out that oak is pale when new, instead of the almost black it turns after a few hundred years.

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    @ thursdaysd, tripplanner001, & rje: I love “traveling” with others who also appreciate the nuances of color and the ways in which our current views of things differ from their earlier, historical presentations!

    If you don’t already know of them, some of you might find interest in the Nationality Rooms of the University of Pittsburgh, where I first learned about some of these differences. And thursdaysd, are you familiar with the black oak of Lithuania, known as bog oak? If not, you might want to click on the room for that country – they are in alphabetical order -- and listen to the narration:

    @ Smeagol – I’m glad you are enjoying these “updates” – I guess I went a bit beyond my plan to “provide a bit more detail.” ;-)

    @ progol – oh, have I already mentioned Singapore’s heat and humidity?!? OMG, it was HOT and it was HUMID :-( and it was worth every sweat-drenched moment. :-) Hope you keep enjoying my report….

    Day 5: Singapore -- the National Museum, Peranankan Museum, Raffles, and the National Gallery

    • After another delicious breakfast (the poached eggs at the Adonis were quite good :-) ), I began this day with a vist to
    • the National Museum, which had a very informative and well-signed collection documenting the area’s history. I was particularly impressed by the
    • section on the Japanese occupation during WWII, about which I had known very little, and Elizabeth Choy (nee Yong Su-Moi), about whom I had previously known nothing. Too, I happened to visit while there was
    • an excellent temporary display of works from the British Museum. It was very nice to revisit some extraordinary pieces and see others for the first time.

    • After a brief stroll though the lower reaches of Fort Canning Park, I visited
    • the Peranankan Museum, with its fascinating displays and charming monument to a beloved cat on the stairs that lead to its entrance.
    • From there, I quickly made my way to

    • Raffles, where I had made a reservation after reading comments from AskOksena (robert) and thursdaysd – I must admit that I had always thought of “tea” as tea and sweets, which I can easily do without; I had no idea that it could also include savories! I freshened up and soon made my appearance for:
    High tea at the Raffles Tiffin Room. A glass of sparkling wine, an astonishingly delicious and extensive array of savories and sweets, a gifted harpist, excellent service.… I’m so glad I listened to the advice I was so generously given!!! :-)

    • After a last cup of tasty tea, I went to the Swisshotel Stamford, where I was able to secure a perfect seat for watching the sun set over Singapore – so much nicer, IMO, than Sky on 57! (Kathie – the revolving restaurant is gone, but I’m very glad you suggested that I try it, as the option this hotel now offers was perfect for my needs.) I enjoyed a glass of prosecco, confirmed that I could still walk ;-) , and then set off for

    • Singapore’s magnificent National Gallery Singapore. What a delightfully deep collection :-) !
    • My kudos to the staff – attentively discreet and unobtrusively helpful. And,
    • OMG, what an extraordinary use of re-purposed space! (I thought of AskOksena/robert often while there, and trust he will give it my regards when he next visits it.) I found it awesome and truly delightful. :-) From the roof deck through the displays of both the structure and interior of the original dome of what had been the Supreme Court; from the use of spaces around original stairwells to the breathtaking new space connecting these two former buildings … WOW!
    • I was very fortunate to visit while there was a temporary exhibit that paired works by Southeast Asian artists with works of European post-Impressionists – with which I am, at least in general, quite familiar. (I didn’t know all the European pieces, but was aware of all the European artists who were represented, and I always enjoy encountering museum-quality pieces from that genre that I haven’t seen before.) I can’t imagine a better introduction, for me, to the art of the area!
    • My only regret was that I didn’t have more time before the museum closed.

    • From there, it wasn’t far to a stop for a boat along Singapore’s waterways. Unfortunately, I reached the ticket kiosk just as it was closing – even though it was nearly an hour before the last boat was scheduled to depart according to information on the web. Nothing to do except admit defeat. :-(
    • I had a beer at a local, and ALL too lively, establishment and then, exhausted, took a taxi to my hotel.

    Day 6: Singapore -- Asian Civilizations Museum, Gardens by the Bay domes, river cruise, and more...

    • My first stop of the day, after breakfast, was the Catholic cathedral of St. Andrews, with its koi pond,
    • and then the tiny Armenian Church nearby, with its very small, but poignant and evocative cemetery.
    • I took a hot, steamy walk :-( to the

    Asian Civilizations Museum, which holds some extraordinary Chinese ceramics and other noteworthy artifacts. (MaryW – as already noted, I thought of you while visiting this museum, and am glad to know you’ve seen it.)

    • After a brief break, I crossed the Cavanaugh Suspension Bridge, with its endearing scuplted family of cats, and then visited the
    Fullerton Hotel lobby – OMG! If you have any interest in Art Deco, do block out some time to savor this space! From there, I visited the
    Merlion. Of course, I visited it with hordes of others. More specifically: Hordes of selfie-taking people so absorbed with their own smartphones that they didn’t even know when they were walking into others. Argh! Enough said. I am glad I saw it, though! (Thanks, jacketwatch, for making sure I didn’t forget to do so.)

    • I then took a taxi to (are you ready, tripplanner001?) the Flower Dome, part of the Gardens by the Bay. While en route
    • a downpour hit – causing every person in the greater Singapore area to conclude that the Flower Dome would be the best place to be in heavy rain. ;-) OK – it’s not like I was going to skip it, even if I had to share it with throngs.
    • I spent hours and hours enjoying the Flower Dome – its glorious fuchsias in full bloom, gardens featuring flowers from a delightful array of environments (California, the Mediteranean, South America, so many more!), intriguing baobabs and bottle trees and succulents, and an extensive temporary tulip exhibit – not to mention its comfortably cool, dry air. :-)
    • I then spent some time at the Garden by the Bay’s Cloud Forest – worth seeing, IMO, even if it did mean re-entering a hot, humid space.
    • After passing some interesting sculptures and by a VERY long line of people waiting to walk the Skyway (OK, that’s going to have to wait for my next visit!), I
    • once again meandered through the Supertrees (they look so different in daylight!), and

    • found my way to a subway station, where I boarded a train for a restaurant I had flagged in advance for Baba Nonya fare. While en route, I belatedly decided that a boat along the city’s waterways was a higher priority, given my difficulty the night before, and I confirmed that the restaurant would be open late enough for me to go there afterward. I plotted a route to
    • the nearest jetty. I was soon at a kiosk for the boat ride, ticket in hand, with an assurance that a boat would arrive within 15 or 20 minutes.
    • As an unexpected bonus, I had a distant view of the light show at the Supertrees from the pier – nice! BUT
    • the clock moved forward … 30 minutes passed, then 40, 50…. FINALLY a boat arrived and I boarded for a river cruise.
    • The boat ride was pleasant, and parts were really quite nice. But after that LONG delay, I was hungry and angry and in absolutely NO mood to tolerate the drunken partiers who subsequently boarded. My advice: Board at a high-use dock and with a willingness to wait, or don’t try at all. (Anyone sensing a grumpy moment? ;-) )
    • By the time my cruise ended, it was too late for my target restaurant. :-( I returned to
    • “my” neighborhood, where I chose an OK (but otherwise totally forgetable) meal in one of the shophouses near my hotel. Good enough, though!

    To be continued….

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    Wow! You really packed a lot into these two days. Glad you liked the Flower Dome; if there is one place to see at Gardens by the Bay, it would be my pick. Making a note to check out tea at the Raffles next time.

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    @ tripplanner001: Yes, I did pack a lot into those days, didn’t I? (IIRC, you filled every moment of your last trip there, too.) Worth every minute, IMO! Definitely consider having tea at Raffles on your next visit – it can be quite a treat!

    @ dgunbug: I’m pleased that you are enjoying my words and finding helpful information – thanks for letting me know!

    @ Kathie: By all means, consider having high tea at Raffles! and be prepared for differences from high tea at the Hotel Tugu Malang – differences that I would say are neither good nor bad; just, well … different. ;-) And again, many thanks for helping ME enjoy some of YOUR old favorites in Singapore. :-)

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    You've definitely increased my interest in Singapore considerably! While I was planning a visit there as part of the Bali/Java trip, I'll definitely have to add a couple of days to include some of those wonderful places you've visited.

    kja, I am really awed by how much you not only see and do, but how much you truly absorb the culture and history of the places you visit.

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    kja, just reading about the humidity in Singapore makes my skin I don't mind the hot/heat, but I can't tolerate humidity for any length of time. Although it appears the climate in Singapore is more tropical without say the trade winds you find in the Caribbean, I will definitely do some research to determine when is the best time to visit to avoid the humidity.

    Still enjoying your journey.


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    jdc, good luck on trying to avoid the humidity in Singapore! Singapore is located on the equator and is hot and humid all year. There are so many air-conditioned spaces in Singapore, that makes the heat more tolerable.

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    @ progol: Thanks for your compliments! I definitely try to take advantage of the opportunity that travel affords to experience a bit of an area’s culture and place it in context – seeing and doing, and absorbing, as much as I can.

    @ jdc26: As I’ve written, I’ve never been good with humid heat, either, and had put off traveling to many areas of the world – including Singapore and Indonesia – for years as a result. While I reserve the right to complain about it, I was surprised to find that I handled it as well as I did. Part of that was because one could, as Kathie notes, escape into air-conditioned spaces. But now I have another problem: All sorts of places that I had thought I couldn’t manage are now firmly on my already-overcrowded travel wish list. ;-)

    @ Kathie: I’m glad to hear I didn’t miss a more opportune time of year! To quote something jacketwatch said on my planning thread, “My friends in Singapore said there are four seasons, Hot then hazy and then monsoon then followed by hottest.” But air-conditioning can make a huge difference – and whether in a building or a car, it helped me survive in Java and Bali, too.

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    Jdc26 - I too hate the heat, however, once you venture into this part of the world, you will find it so incredibly interesting that you will be able to tolerate the heat. I am considering taking a trip to China in August as I will be out in California for a wedding at the end of July. Not happy about the heat at that time of the year, but sometimes you just have to suck it up!

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    @ dgunbug: lol … you’re going to be in California in July, so are thinking of China in August – yes, for sure, that’s a clearly logical leap. ;-) BYH! But surely, there are places in China that won’t be too hot at that time of year?

    @ tripplanner001: I found your TR very helpful in planning my time, in part, because of your use of time.

    Day 7. Singapore -- Tekka Market and :-( departure
    • After yet another delightful breakfast at the Adonis, I packed and then
    • made a quick visit to the indoor portion of Little India’s Tekka Market, with its butchers and fishmongers and bloody floors and wonderfully aromatic hot food stands and its clear evidence of the vibrancy of Singapore’s culinary traditions. From there, I had
    • JUST enough time to return to my hotel, where a pre-arranged shared van awaited to
    • take me back along that lovely boulevard with its trees and blossoms to the airport for my AirAsia flight to Yogyakarta, Java.

    Before I turn to my time in Java, a few further comments about my experiences of Singapore: I’ve already noted my thoughts about the things I like best and least about my trip as a whole, and many of those things applied to Singapore as well. But there were things about Singapore per se that stand out, too. The following lists overlap, to some extent, with my trip-as-a-whole lists, but focus on my experiences in Singapore.

    What I liked most about Singapore:
    That Singapore is filled with lovely flowers and trees and gardens that can be enjoyed at any time of day …
    … I loved the rows of rain trees, bedecked with bromeliads, that towered over flowers and flowering shrubs in the medial strip of the highway from the airport into town …
    … and the use of a stylized “rain tree” in the magnificent central, interconnecting area of the new National Gallery ...
    … and the National Gallery itself, and the other museums in Singapore, whether broad in scope or designed to show just a tiny bit of the city’s history in settings that enable visitors to appreciate the use of space …
    … and the ethnic neighborhoods that retain at least a bit of their identity in a city that has, in so many ways, become so cosmopolitan that it didn’t even seem Asian to me …
    … and the range of foods and markets and restaurants that are part of those ethnic neighborhoods and of the subsequent history and current ethos of this fascinating city …
    … not to mention the range of architectural styles, from shophouses through Art Deco to the most modern of modern, with influences from so many different religions and so many different cultures …
    ... and the opportunities to step aside in one of the most densely populated places in the world to enjoy watching fishing cats prepare to pounce or gharials snapping their powerful jaws while being fed, or to feel the air move to the beat of a macaw’s wings or be nibbled by a Lory …
    ... the bronze cat sunning at the entrance to the Peranankan Museum and the statue of a cat and her kittens frolicking by the Cavanaugh Bridge …
    … the ease of using public transportation to get around this remarkably clean city…
    … and the art installations and dance classes in MRT stations …
    … and the “third rails” that allowed one to rest a bit while waiting in lines at the zoo or at transportation transfer stations ...
    … and did I mention the people? So welcoming and helpful! :-)

    What I liked least about Singapore:
    Hordes of selfie-driven, camera obsessed tourists …
    … the fact that river boats apparently don’t necessarily stop at all the stops they advertise (growl!) ...
    … the Marina Bay Sands, which is, IMO, a seriously ugly building with over-hyped facilities (JMO -- and that won’t stop me from smiling whenever I see a picture of it, as it will make me think of my time in Singapore ;-) ) …
    … running out of time at the National Gallery …
    … and oh, did I mention the heat and humidity???

    Next up: My time in Java

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    Thanks for summing up Singapore the way you did. It gave me an opportunity to think about and relive some of our experiences through you. Cannot wait to travel to Java with you.

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    As always a great report and inspires me to get back to Singapore soon as it's been awhile. I should go more often with my brother there but he tends to come home often. There are lots of things I don't get around to revisiting when I do go like the Botanical Gardens and the Bird Park both of which I like and have probably got a lot better since I last visited. Just one of those bad things that tend to happen when you don't stop to think out a good plan on a revisit.

    Thankfully the lovely shophouses have been saved - there was a time they were all going to go for highrise development. They do a lot towards giving character to the city.

    I look forward to your Indonesian adventures.

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    kA, great trip report. Thank you!!!
    LOL your opinion of Marina Bay Hotel and its cruise-ship-atop-a-roof architecture. Some hotels actually charge extra for room with a view of it! (Pan Paciic, where I stayed,did; i declined the kind offer!) Its inside lobby is even worse--hordes of people and noise.
    The selfies are apparently a now-universal phenomenon. I just read JulieS' report of Angkor Wat and she describes the same irritant.
    Yes, yes, yes, to the Botanic Gardens' beauty and history.

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    Kja--apologies.So excited by your report, my fingers got tangled on the keyboard and i misspelled you!! Thanks again for your fantastic and informative and organized descriptions. Almost makes me want to return to SIN city!!
    Ahhh....if only there were a way to decrease the humidity. Climate change, where are you when we need you!?

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    @ tripplanner001: And I look forward to your vicarious companionship as we move on together!

    @ dgunbug: So glad you are enjoying this report!

    @ MaryW: It’s incredibly easy to skip revisits to sites when a trip involves family, isn’t it? And understandably so, I think! But if you do have time on one of your trips, I think you’ll find it worthwhile to make some time for some of these places. And yes, yes, YES – thank goodness they saved the delightful shophouses! I was in Beijing when blocks of hutong were being destroyed, and THINK (and HOPE) that at least some were saved.

    @ CaliNurse: Oh, I am SO grateful for your remarks about the Marina Bay (not to mention your other compliments)! I almost deleted my comment about it because I know there are many who think it groundbreaking and special. I just could not not speak my mind! (And of course, no worries about the typing – my own computer rewrites my screenname with frustrating frequency! I figured out that you meant me. ;-) ) And BTW, there are people I met while in Singapore who said that it was more humid than usual this year … because of climate change. :-(

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    @ Ayaksma: Thanks so much – and welcome to Fodor’s! I’ll be interested to learn what you think once I get to delightful Bali, which (I believe) is your neck of the woods.

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    Continued accolades for an amazing report!! I'm enjoying this so very much and am now eager to go to Singapore, a place I wasn't so interested in before, but you've made it especially enticing. Except for the H & H of course!

    And as CaliNurse notes, the selfie phenomenon is an international curse -- I wanted to throttle everyone of the selfie-stick shooters last year at the Alhambra! Wherever you have lots of tourists, you will see lots of selfie shooters these days. I'm now seeing a lot of (younger) people WALKING while using their selfie sticks, I guess creating their selfie films for youtube. Group rant time, everyone!

    Back to the fabulous kja report now....

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    kja, wow and just wow. I immensely enjoyed reading about your journey in Singapore. And to echo again what I wrote up thread, it was like I there with you heat/humidity and all. Sitting back and waiting for Java, which I'm sure I be right along side you.

    @dgunbug, I think kja has converted me.

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    More humid than usual - oh dear! Glad you had such a good time in Singapore - but you plan so well it would be a surprise if you didn't! And entirely agree that it is hard to think of it as Asia.

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    @ progol: Thanks again, and count me in on the group rant against selfies!

    @ jdc26: I’m glad I brought Singapore to life for you, but regret the discomfort :-( -- keep a fan handy!

    @ ms_go: Welcome back and welcome along! Stockholm is stunning, isn’t it?

    @ jacketwatch: Thank you so much! (blushing)

    @ thursdaysd: I did enjoy Singapore! Of course, I approached it with the benefit of the insights that you, and so many others, generously provided. :-)

    @ Kathie: Thanks for reading along! I thought of you and Cheryl often while in Java, and hope my words bring back some great memories.

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    I have a soft spot for Singapore, it was because my best friend moved there that I went to visit and of course fell in love with SE Asia,and been going back to the area once or twice a year since then. yes Singapore is Asia light and yep that heat and humidity is a killer ( I think the only month I haven't been is October ) hoping to pack in visit number 15 before K leaves early next year!
    Absolutely love this report and written in a very reader friendly style.

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    Well you should see prices in French Polynesia for booze, esp. if its imported. In 2006 a 1.75 L bottle of good old Jack Daniels was a whooping $140.00! :D.

    We actually ate indoors at Sky on 57 so it was comfortable and also outside was fine too but this was mid Feb. and sorry about the meal you had. Ours was pretty good but hey I would be disappointed too for a less than satisfactory meal at those prices! It was hot but not so bad really. We could walk during the day just fine though in the evening you could feel being out in the heat during the day but all in all it was ok then. However for you the time of yr. had to make it a lot harder.

    Conversely we were not treated well at Raffles when we went there for a Sling. We were not permitted to enter inside unless we were guests and as we did not want to sit in 95F temps outside this was rather awful. On top of that the doorman seemed like he did not want to be bothered to get us a cab. I emailed the manager when we got back and he apologized and offered us free tea service should we ever return so that was nice. Im glad you had a better time of it.

    Still following!!

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    Really enjoyable report kja, thanks!

    It brought back wonderful memories of my numerous trips to Singapore, 1985-2008. I wouldn't recognize much of the place today, less than a decade later. The Gardens by the Bay were just a hole in the ground on my last visit. But glad to hear many of my favorites are still there and still deliver.

    The only thing that could have made your TR better is if I read it with a Tiger beer, plate of pepper crab, or even better, a bowl full of mangosteens in front of me.

    Oddly enough, I actually enjoyed walking out into the heat and humidity after a day working in a cold air conditioned office.

    Looking forward to traveling Java with you. Bring on the gamelan!

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    @ thursdaysd: “I call them ego sticks” – perfect!

    @ Smeagol: Thanks for your kind words and hoping you enjoy visit # 15!

    @ jacketwatch: Oh, the irony of it! Prices like that for a bottle of Jack could, well, drive one to drink! ;-)

    @ Nelson: I can certainly appreciate that one might find it extremely enjoyable to step out into even truly awful heat and humidity after a day at work. (Oh .. I seemed to have omitted your reference to the office’s AC! What an inexplicable oversight. ;-) ) I’m glad to have brought back some wonderful memories and encourage you to stock up on the Tiger – we have a long way to go yet!

    Time for Java!

    Day 7: (continued) – arrival in Java; transit to Borobudur

    • After a short, pleasant flight on SilkAir, I landed in Yogyakarta, where
    • a driver from my hotel – Dodo (pronounced doodoo) – greeted me. I found Dodo to be a very gracious and hospitable gentleman, and over the next few days, I treasured his efforts to communicate about all sorts of things, including some very serious matters, such as how young girls are treated in Java. After a bit of a drive, we reached
    • the Manohara Resort, which is adjacent to Borobudur and which (I’m pleased to report) served my needs for the area very well. I checked in and
    • made arrangements for Dodo to pick me up the next day. As I settled in to my room,
    • I was bombarded by the sounds of a “jazz concert” that I had been “very lucky” to encounter. Hmmm … I had thought syncopation a key element of jazz? Planning on getting up extremely early in the morning, I tried to go to sleep … “try” being the operative verb.
    • The concert ended at about 11 p.m., and after a reasonably short interval during which people accessed their cars – which were in a parking lot very close to my room – a welcome silence greeted me.

    Day 8: Central Java -- Borobudur and Gedong Songo

    • To my astonishment, I actually managed to get up a 4 a.m. (I am, in general, more likely to still be awake at sunrise than to get up for it!) and
    • made my way to the top of Borobudor (OMG, some of those stairs are high!) long before the first signs of the approaching sunrise. Despite the irritating use by all too many people of brightly back-lit smartphones, the night sky was awesome – SO many stars!
    • As the sky slowly lightened, I began to catch glimpses of the mist that lingered between various ridges all around, and as tinges of pink streaked the sky and the stars faded, the slopes of Merapi took shape, as did Borobudor’s many Buddhas. A hitherto black and white scene began to take on the delicate tints of a light ink wash, and then a charcoal with pastels, and eventually the colors intensified and deepened until I was looking out over a lush landscape of myriad greens topped by an azure sky, with a horizon anchored to the east by the awesome cratered cone of Merapi, above which the sun obligingly rose. Ooh, what a glorious experience! :-) :-) :-) I am SO glad that I made a sunrise at Borobudur a priority! (And apparently I was very lucky – it had been too hazy to see Merapi for several days, and it couldn’t be seen the next day, either.

    • Later, I walked around every level of this masterful mandala, savoring every relief and every statue and every view of the surroundings, feeling so very fortunate to be alive and to see this treasure.
    • As I reached the ground level, a gardener smiled and I smiled back and said something innocuous, probably “good morning” (in Indonesian), and we shared just a very few words (which was all I could manage!), and then he pointed to a far corner of the grounds and signaled that I should go there. Not one to refuse the advice of a local expert, off I went
    • to what may be the only place on the grounds from which one can see two sides and all levels of this amazing structure. :-) It’s by the marker noting the UNESCO World Heritage Site designation, and although the mandala was swarming with people (especially after the gates opened to those who hadn’t come for sunrise), I saw only a few others at this corner.
    • After many happy hours, I looked at the time: OMG, I barely have time to get back to the Manohara for breakfast – and I was HUNGRY (having skipped dinner the night before)! Hot and tired, I was ill-prepared to discover that one must take a LONG route from the temple back to the resort (not the shorter route used before sunrise). Moving at nearly a trot, despite the heat :-( , I
    • reached the Manohara, where I went straight to the breakfast area and enjoyed a very tasty selection from the Manohara’s extensive array of Eastern and Western options.
    • With barely enough time before I was to meet Dodo, reminding myself that I’ve paid for his time and if I’m late, that’s OK, I dashed
    • to my room for a quick shower and the discovery that -- oh! I completely forgot that my flight from Singapore to Java crossed a time zone. I had reset my alarm, but not my camera (which I used to tell the time). I was an hour ahead of schedule! Although it was, by then, too late to go back to visit the museums on site, at least I did have time for
    • a long shower and a leisurely cup of coffee.

    • Dodo then greeted me, as planned, to take me to Gedong Songo – and
    • my first daylight experience of central Java’s main east-west road. The traffic seemed to me to be utter chaos, with roads filled with cars, trucks, motorcycles, tuktuks, horse-and-buggies, mopeds, bicycles, pedestrians, and every imaginable conveyance of any size or speed, all weaving and tailgating and often holding awesome loads -- sheafs of grain or stacked baskets or cages of live chickens or whatever -- and every one of these modes of conveyance violatied every rule my father stressed as critical to safe driving. :-( All too many of the motorcyclists were youngsters barely in their teens (a problem several of my drivers mentioned) and many of them had no helmets. Argh! During my time in Indonesia, I came to recognize some of the rules that govern traffic patterns (how glad I was to realize that there ARE operative norms!), but OMG, driving there takes constant alertness; quick reactions; and great control over turn signals, warning lights, and the horn. As a passenger, I found paying close attention to the sights to the SIDE of the road helpful. ;-)
    • I also realized something that I had only vaguely noted on the drive from the airport the night before: The road is lined by mile after mile after mile of nonstop buildings -- houses and sheds and shops and abandoned buildings and roadside stalls and whatever, most set back just a yard or two (if that) from the road. It never occurred to me that there would be no way for drivers to avoid cities, but they can’t, at least not from somewhere east of Surakarta through well west of Yogyakarta – there is just this one main east-west road. At times, the traffic, and traffic jams, seemed unbelievable!
    • Many of these small structures we passed had cages with songbirds or a blooming plant or two or some little thing of beauty and many also held piles of litter or rubble or refuse; I often saw a woman meticulously sweeping debris from one tiny area to the adjacent pile of trash and rubble.

    • After what seemed an interminable time, we reached an area where there were beautiful stretches of deep forest or rice paddies or fields of sugar cane, sometimes lined by trumpet trees in glorious bloom or other trees that had been treated with colorful patterns of lime.
    • We finally reached Gedong Songo, where – as I had hoped -- I was able to hire a man and his “small horse” (he – the horse, not the local man -- looked like a Shetland pony; I have no idea if he was!) to explore some of the temples high up this mountain. I’d been on a horse before – once! when I was 20 -- so this experience was a bit of an adventure for me. ;-) With a LOT of patient assistance from my local guide and his sweet-tempered horse, I managed to get the hang of going UP hill well enough to not require constant attention. Going DOWN was a bit more of a challenge for me. :-( Once we reached the generally downhill portion, I was happy to walk – and I’m sure that was a welcome relief to both horse and guide!
    • We visited several interesting temple ruins (among the oldest Hindu temples in Java), rode by a steaming hot spring, and stopped for a cup of delicious coffee. While the woman brewed our coffee, my guide went off and gathered several coffee berries in varying stages of ripeness to show me. How nice!
    • The scenery from Gedong Songo is supposed to include volcanos. I certainly appreciated some beautiful vistas, but there was sufficient humidity to prevent me from seeing any of the distant volcanoes that can, apparently, sometimes be seen. Still, I was glad to see what I did see!
    • After a long (2 hour or so) ride back to Borobudur, during which we encountered some bits of rain, we stopped at

    Candi Mendut, which still has Buddhas inside (and a surprising number of roosters strutting nearby), and the adjacent, functioning
    Mendut Monastery, with its delightful and extensive collection of Buddhist statuary, lovingly scattered among various bits of lovely landscaping.
    • Rain began again in earnest, then, and we were running later than planned for the day, so I was very surprised, and grateful, when Dodo stopped at
    • the small, but interesting Candi Pawon. How nice! We soon reached
    • the Manohara Resort, where a man was playing a xylophone-like gamelan instrument in the covered, open-air entry area. :-) I enjoyed a beer while he finished his performance for the day,
    • savored a wonderful meal at the hotel’s restaurant (my first experience of gurame – a grilled and seasoned fish, I think carp -- that I found incredibly delicious), and then
    • Collapsed after a LONG – but absolutely delightful – day. :-)

    To be continued….

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    What a day! Your visit to Borobudur sounds near perfect. And I'm with you on your impressions of the traffic; what really annoys me about traffic in Asia is the unrelentless streams of motorbikes on what seems like every thoroughfare.

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    What a beautiful description of the dawn! And it does indeed sound worth getting up for.

    Re: traffic - you are now in Asia, not Singapore, lol! Re: helmets - the first time I went to Vietnam, 2002, no-one wore a helmet. The last time I was there, 2011, seemed like everyone did - although they still put whole families on one small bike.

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    @ tripplanner001: Yes, that was one awesome day, and if anyone has had a better visit to Borobudur, no worries -- mine was quite spectacular enough! :-)

    @ thursdaysd: Thank you! To be honest, I can’t imagine that any words I could write would ever truly capture that extraordinary dawn. I was SO lucky to see it!

    @ trippplanner001 & thursdaysd: I ended up speaking with almost every driver I had about mopeds, motorbikes, and motorcycles, and while I can’t assert that I fully understood what they were saying, or that what they said was accurate, here’s what I gathered:
    • Although elementary school education – and tranpsoration to and from -- is free in Indonesia, families must pay for anything beyond that.
    • Because education is highly valued there, most families try to pay for at least secondary education – meaning (I think) through what I would call high school, or readiness for university.
    • Because of that interest, and MANY other economic stresses, an increasing number of mothers are working outside the home.
    • But with the possible exception of some urban areas, transportation to secondary education is NOT readily available.
    • With both mom and dad at work, and no public transit, the only way for many adolescents to get to school is for them to bike (if close enough) or – more often – go by motorbike (etc.).
    • And that has apparently means that MANY parents let their children use motorbikes to get to school – and of course, once you do that, it’s really hard to control where they go. :-(
    • According to the law, only those aged 16 or older can be licensed to drive a motorcycle – but the police are well aware of the lack of options available to many of people, and so they turn a blind eye to both age and use of proper safety equipment.
    • (And apparently, parents do generally buy the appropriate helmets, etc. – it’s just really hard to make adolescents use them, particularly when they all know that they are being allowed to ride at all, against all apparent safety rules….)
    • And of course, motorbikes are more gas efficient than anything larger and provide an affordable transportation option that works well year-round … more arguments in their favor! (And I must admit that I can’t bring myself to argue against energy efficiency.)

    Again, I have no idea of the accuracy of these generalizations; I can only say that I heard enough common elements from enough different people to think there may be some germs of truth in it.

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    Oh, kja, what an amazing experience so far! Your description of Borodobur at sunrise is picture-perfect -- I can really see it unfold in your words. Beautiful and I'm so glad that you had such a wonderful experience.

    Looking forward to more --- this is just great so far!

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    A wonderful first day in Java!

    You were fortunate to see the sunrise at Borobudur, as I've always been there on days when the mist meant I couldn't see the sunrise. But even without the lovely colors of the sunrise, it's a special place that early in the morning.

    Candi Mendut is one of my favorites, with the unique (and original) Buddha seated on a chair.

    The fish you ate was gourami which you will find all over Indonesia. We ate it at a small riverside restaurant near Prambanam on our last trip. Tropical fish aficionados know it as a fish you can buy for aquariums. They are large and colorful.

    I'm loving going along with you on this adventure.

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    Reading about Java now;

    Interesting how names in one language mean something so different in another. Dodo is extinct and doodoo is well, you know. :D. He does sound like a very reflective person of course.

    Maybe their style of jazz there is deconstructed. :D. In the future bring ear plugs. We were in Delhi during Diwali one yr. and with all the fireworks blasting all night I am glad we had them. If you didn't know better you would have sworn Pakistan was invading. :).

    I am glad you had a good, non-hazy day to see Merapi.

    Traffic in Asia. Yep its semi-controlled chaos. What you described reminds me of Delhi. I always say the first thing to break on cars there is the horn. And BTW you rarely see a vehicle there without a dent or a scratch. Did you notice the same in Java?

    It does sound like a very long but memorable day with no wasted time. I hope you had time for some Kopi Luwak too. :S-.

    Keep it coming and thanks again!!

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    I seldom read trip reports, but this one has been great. Plus, I like the bullet points as I can speed read through it in such a format. Glad you had such a great trip.

    Happy Travels!

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    @ progol: Sunrise at Borobudur was incredible! I hope you get to experience it some day!

    @ Kathie: It was a wonderful first day in Java – and yes, I was VERY fortunate! I was also pretty sure that you would know gourami – as you’ll see, I followed in your footsteps for my dinner before the Ramayana Ballet. :-)

    @ jdc26: I hope you, too, are able to visit this part of the world one day – it is special!

    @ jacketwatch:
    • As you suspected, I saw almost no dents or scratches or other signs of vehicular accidents – the traffic does seem chaotic, but there really are rules that drivers are following! I asked a couple of my drivers about accidents: Both said that the vast majority involve motorcycles driven by young people. Granted, that could be because the vast majority of driven miles involve young people on motorcycles, but I tend to suspect it also reflects inexperience and youthful confidence in one’s abilities and one’s immortality. One driver also said that accident rates of all sorts increase toward the end of Ramadan and suggested -- if I understood correctly -- that it was linked to prolonged fasting. Interesting!
    • As for Kopi Luwak … as a coffee lover and serious caffeine addict, I decided to decline. I couldn’t bear to think that I might spend every day of the rest of my life thinking that I could have better! (That, and the price.) ;-)

    @ Guenmai: Thanks for your kind words! It really was a GREAT trip. :-)

    @ tripplanner001: I thought the comments I heard about motorbikes seemed to have some truth to them, too – particularly because I heard much the same thing from just about every driver with whom I worked.

    Day 9: Central Java -- Dieng Plateau

    • After another generous and tasty breakfast at the Manohara, I
    • met Dodo for our trip to the Dieng Plateau, about 3 hours away. As before, the roads seemed chaotic and we had to drive some distance to “escape” continuous stretches of road-side buildings, but we did, eventually, escape.
    • passing through stretches of forest and farmland, and then, as we ascended to the plateau, an increasing numbers of incredibly steeply terraced hillsides, which Dodo said were planted primarily with peanuts, potatoes, and cabbage. He stopped for a break at
    • a wonderfully situated gazebo-like structure with stunning views over the terraces and mist-shrouded mountains – awesome! While there,
    • Dodo bought me a cone of freshly roasted peanuts that were incredibly tasty and of a texture unlike any peanut I’d ever had (something like a barely cooked bean) – delicious! And how nice of Dodo!

    • Once at the Dieng Plateau, I hired a local guide who led me up a slippery, muddy hillside to a point from which I could view the “Green Lake” and, further, the much smaller “Colored Lake,” which seemed to me to be generally green, but with a small area that is not. (Nice! But don’t expect to see the truly multicolor lakes of the Plitvice Lakes National Park.) We then went to
    Candi Biwa, with its unusual array of Buddhas’ heads looking out from external niches.
    • The Sikidang Crater steamed and roiled and reeked of sulfur, and I found it interesting because I’d never been anywhere quite like it. But the area around the crater has a number of places for “photo ops” involving wildlife – a place where owls had been tethered; animals could be mounted, etc. I must admit that I can’t believe the sulfur did those creatures any good, and it seemed a bit unnecessary to me. :-( JMO.
    • The temples of the Arjuna Complex (which, along with the temples of the Gedong Songo, are among the oldest Hindu structures on Java) were not the most impressive I saw, but they held some architectural features that I thought intriguing and WELL worth seeing. :-)
    • By this time, I was becoming accustomed to something that was to prove somewhat irksome throughout my time in Java: Many, many, MANY people wanted to have a picture taken with me. I don’t like having my picture taken. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to have a picture showing them with someone with whom they have no connection. BUT I also didn’t want to remain in their memories as the person (or worse, the “rude American”) who refused their request, so as long as people asked politely, I tried to oblige. (On the few occasions when someone did not ask, I had no problem turning away or blocking my face.) And of course, once you say yes to one person, the line forms…. I think ms_go also remarked on this issue, and I agree -- it definitely gets old.

    • Once again, humidity prevented me from seeing the volcanoes that can, I believe, sometimes be seen from this plateau, but I thought the scenery quite beautiful nonetheless. After saying farewell to the local guide, Dodo and I began
    • Our long drive back to Borobudor … down and down and down. A sudden rainstorm or two later, and
    • OMG, there’s a volcanic cone high above the horizon! OMG, that’s not ONE cone, it’s two, one much further than the other! Wow! I’m so glad for those brief glimpses!

    • Dodo then invited me to join him for coffee in his family’s home, which was built in a traitional style. What a kind and generous offer, and what a welcome experience! The main room had a high, beautifully constructed roof and lots of ventilation and indirect light – SOOoooo pleasant!

    • He then suggested that we might go to a place that offers a view over Borobudur. I was game! After a
    • short drive through village lanes just barely wide enough for a single vehicle and seemingly made (I think) of concrete slabs positioned over supports, with room in between (and so below the “road”) for rain run-off, he drove
    • up and up to a parking lot where I was given the option to hire a motorscooter to climb further up the hill. Me? Not!!! So
    • Dodo and I began to climb on foot, one step after another, up and up and up, huffing and puffing, to…
    • A huge chicken roosting atop the hill. Seriously: A chicken. And I mean HUGE – as in at least 3 or 4 stories tall! We made it there
    • JUST before it closed and climbed (inside) several stories up to the (open) beak, from which there were, indeed, impressive views out over the countryside. And yes, I could see Borobudur off in the distance. Who knew?!?
    • FWIW, you can trust me that trying to climb 2 or 3 flights of stairs while already struggling for air and while laughing so hard that one’s side hurts poses a challenge. But such fun and so different and honestly, a good laugh is, IMO, always welcome! :-)

    • Back at the Manohara, I had another welcome beer as the gamelan player finished his set, and then another delicious dinner, this time noting that there was a gamelan player in the restaurant, too!
    • And, as I listened, a sweet little cat jumped on my lap and purred and let me pet her until I left for my nightly preparations, and as I reflected upon my day, my overriding thought was:
    • OMG, I am a lucky person! :-) :-) :-)

    Day 10: Central Java -- Yogyakarta

    • After another tasty breakfast, Dodo took me to my hotel in Jogja, where I said a fond farewell to him – such a nice man! It was too early to check in, but I enjoyed a welcoming treat and stopped at the hotel’s travel office to make some arrangements. I then

    • took a tuktuk to the kraton (palace), arriving in time to enjoy quite a bit of a performance of wayang golek (a type of puppet show using 3D puppets), accompanied by a large gamelan orchestra. Wonderful!!! :-) Such skill and craftsmanship from all involved! After it ended,
    • I walked by some of the occupied portions of the palace, glimpsing lovely spaces created from very high quality materials.
    • I was not enamored by the museum. Perhaps it’s just because the English signage was limited, but I really didn’t understand why I should look at a pair of quilted oven mitts. ??? It did hold at least a few items of interest, though.
    • I was downright irritated with the touts trying to convince people that nearby puppet and batik shops were part of the palace and that they offerd a “rare” opportunity to see the craftsmen at work. Thankfully, my guidebooks had given ample forwarning.
    • (I was surprised by the aggressiveness of touts in Jogja – in most of the places I visited on this trip, a simple “no, thank you” was sufficient. I don’t blame them for trying – that’s their job, isn’t it? Just as it’s MY job to say no – which I always try to do politely. I didn’t see the need for the pushiness of all-too-many touts in Jogya, though, or for so many downright lies. JMO.)

    • After a much needed break for water and juice – this day was HOT!!! -- I headed toward my next destination, passing
    • shops selling singing birds or stunning textiles or whatever, and briefly
    • roaming around a little market with just a few open produce stands and a few hot food stalls, with their enticing smells, until I
    • got quite lost. :-( But people were very helpful, and I soon found myself at my goal:
    • the Taman Sari (aka Water Castle). I found it very interesting (why wasn’t it symmetrical?), and in parts, very beautiful – but I was unable to free myself of a local man who tried to insist on serving as my guide, no matter how many times, or how many ways, I told him that I did not want his services. So frustrating! :-(

    • After a VERY long walk -- and a few more wrong turns -- on this VERY hot and humid day, I finally reached the Agung Mosque, where a gentleman showed me where I could wash my feet prior to entering. This very large mosque had, I thought, some very pleasant features, and it was surprisingly (and welcomingly) cool inside.

    • In an unsuccessful search for a place where I could get a beer :-( , I continued walking -- and was amazed by the many ways in which men involved in the transportation industry caught naps: There were men draped over their tuktuks, or over adjacent benches, or even on the sidewalks, and – at one large lot filled by tour buses, it seemed that someone was sleeping in the under-carriage luggage compartment of every single one. ;-) I finally
    • reached a large market – just as a Phoenix Hotel tuktuk pulled in to let off a young couple. Perfect! :-) I was soon safely ensconced in

    • my delightful room at the Phoenix Hotel. I enjoyed a beer from its mini-fridge (OK, I chugged one, and then sipped another ;-) ), and savored my first ever snakefruit from the complimentary fruit bowl as I settled in.
    • After a quick dip in the hotel’s pool,
    • I ate a delicious dinner of gudeg at the hotel’s restaurant (thanks to Tontorino for making sure I knew to try it) and then
    • took a taxi to the Museum Sonobudoyo, where I enjoyed part of a wayang kulit performance – such fun! I found it fascinating to see strong similarities to puppet theater in Xi’an and Bursa, even though the story itself was completely different. I
    • also admired the full gamelan orchestra backing this performance. :-) Then
    • another taxi back to the Phoenix and some much needed rest.

    To be continued….

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    These two days sounds very similar to our time in Central Java. I'm so glad that you had that unexpected time with Dodo; these are the types of experiences, IMHO, that gives you some of the better opportunities to dig deeper into the lives of the people you are visiting.

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    Warm Friday greetings from a winding down Kathmandu business & reunion trip to you kja -- and thank you kindly for more brilliant writing. Just catching up with Fodor's and your report is a delight; well done.

    Glad you enjoyed your holiday in our fine home of Singapore. Fortunate to call SIN home for work, family and residence. (Quite the changes from my first Singapore visit ~ half-century back with my parents and siblings; she's always evolving and believe more positive developments are forthcoming.)

    Will be honoured to pass along your praise of our National Gallery Singapore; some wonderful friends at that venue. Also pleased to hear of your enjoyable experiences at the Adonis and Raffles.

    [Regarding lodging, attended a presentation in Kathmandu earlier this week about a potential new Nepalese property. It's been wonderful to be back in KTM for meetings and to see some cherished climbing Sherpa friends and their families; relationships going back ~ three decades. Special part of the world.]

    Thanks again kja, for such thoughtful writing. Warmest wishes to you from Kathmandu and soon, back home to Singapore,


    ... Singapore Airlines, You're a Great Way to Fly ...

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    @ tripplanner001: I agree completely – my experiences with Dodo offered irreplaceable enrichments to my time in Java!

    @ AskOksena: And warm greetings to you, robert! :-) I’ve been hoping that you would respond to this TR, because I wanted to be sure that you knew that I greatly benefited from your input and thoroughly enjoyed Singapore. I can’t imagine that my remarks would matter to the National Gallery, but by all means, feel free to pass my praise along! More to the point (I think), I can’t thank you enough for making sure I knew about it – and honestly, it would have been all-to-easy for me to miss, given that I rely on guidebooks for most of my planning, and none of my guidebooks were sufficiently up to date to capture the recent (re)opening of this magnficent museum. So again – please give it a smile for me when you next visit it (and other visits, too!). Enjoy your moments in Kathmandu and elsewhere….

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    lol - a giant chicken!! I have to admit I've never heard of it, but what an exotic way to view Borobudur!

    I'm glad you liked the Phoenix. We loved their breakfasts with extensive Indonesian offerings as well as western and Japanese options. And the pool is very welcome in such a hot place.

    The situation with the kraton is very odd. Two branches of the family had a falling out and so divided the kraton. Depending on where you enter you see what one branch or the other of the family wants you to see. There are some amazing things in the kraton which I remember from my first trip, before the family split.

    Like you, we loved the gamelon music. And it's amazing how it is everywhere. I liked that the Phoenix had a gamely player in the lobby and/or the restaurant.

    Looking forward to more.

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    @ Kathie – the Phoenix is an absolute delight, and as you say, its breakfast buffet is truly extensive. Interesting about the kraton. I’m glad you got to see some of its treasures!

    @ thursdaysd – OMG, such a tragic story! Yes, I’m very glad I wasn’t in Java for the end of Ramadan.

    Day 11: Central Java -- Yogyakarta and Candi Prambanan

    • I began my day with an extraordinary breakfast at the Phoenix – what a lavish and varied array of delicious foods, all beautifully presented, attentively served, and accompanied (as Kathie just noted) by a gamelan musician. And lets not forget the koi “stream” through the dining area. WOW!!! :-)
    • I then took to a taxi to

    Pasar Beringharjo, a very large market where I admired batik, feasted my eyes on all sorts of produce, and savored the rich aromas of spices and traditional medicines. From there, I walked to the
    Museum Sonobudoyo, spending time to appreciate its wonderful collection of Indonesian arts and objects – and IMO, it was an excellent collection!
    • I walked around a bit and then took a tuktuk back to the Phoenix, where I met Pri (pronounced “Pre,” like the beginning syllable of many words) -- another wonderful driver. He took me to
    Candi Sambisari, which had been largely buried by lava and, later, excavated and then

    Candi Prambanan – Oooh, Prambanan! Another absolute gem, I was happy to spend almost two hours exploring its nooks and crannies, and I was fortunate to see it close up as the sun set and the lights for the night’s performance came on – each offering unique and awesome highlights and shadows – and with the changes in light, varying awesome glimpses of the sculpted reliefs that adorn this wonderful temple. :-) As the site closed, I headed to the exit
    • and was routed through a seemingly endless stretch of souvenier shops: Visitors are not free to exit from just anywhere, rather, they must follow a particular route. Shop after shop, stall after stall…. Similar routing was not uncommon elsewhere in Indonesia, but this path may have been the longest.

    • Following a recommendation in Kathie’s report, I had asked Pri earlier whether he knew and would recommend going to Kali Opak for dinner; he had agreed that it would be an excellent choice. Once I claimed my pre-reserved ticked for the ballet, he took me to the very nearby
    Kali Opak for a delicious dinner of grilled fish (gourami again, and again, mouthwatering) on a vine-bedecked terrace overlooking the lush greenery of a slope above a river (which I could hear, but not see). Wonderful! (Thanks so much, Kathie! :-) ) And then:

    • the Ramayana Ballet at Prambanan. Magnificent! I had reserved one of the VIP seats, which meant that I had a great view from a comfortable seat. What a special experience! I saw the 2-hour “summary” show; depending on the schedule, one might also be able to see one or more of four shows that, together, tell the full story. I loved the costumes and the make-up and the staging and the music and OMG the absolutely stunning movements of the dancers. Such control! Whether flexing or extending, remaining stable or turning … I don’t have the language to speak of dance, except to say wow Wow WOW!!!
    • Once the performance ended, Pri took me back to the Phoenix, where I took a quick dip before settling in for the night, so very thankful for yet another truly amazing day. :-) :-) :-)

    Day 12: Central Java -- Yogyakarta -- Kota Gedi -- Candi Plaosan -- Surakarta

    • I began this day with a wonderful massage at the hotel’s spa – with a discounted rate for booking a morning slot, a 55-minute “traditional healing massage with exotic scents” cost about $20 – how could I not! And ooh, that was nice :-). Then
    • another scrumptious and very generous breakfast, and
    • preparations to check out of this delightful hotel.

    • Meeting Pri again, we went first to
    Kota Gede -- the “Old City”, where I learned how silver filigree jewelry is made, roamed around town and through a colorful market, and visited the Mataram Mosque and parts of the royal cemetery. Back in the car, Pri drove me by
    • Prambanan, where I saw its herd of deer and caught a glimpse of Candi Sewu on our way to
    Candi Plaosan – another awesome temple! Now surrounded by rice paddies and with numerous headless Buddhas inside various interior spaces, I was intrigued by both the similarities and differences from other temples in the area.
    • I thoroughly enjoyed my conversation with Pri as we headed to Solo – with an impressive command of English and extensive knowledge of the area, he proved a delight.

    • Once in Solo, I said farewell to Pri and checked into my hotel – the Royal Surakarta Heritage, where I was upgraded to a lovely room with a mini-fridge that was empty :-( -- something I was to experience at several places on this trip. With no nearby stores, I had to supply it from room service. (But at least I could supply it!) Owned by the same group that owns the Phoenix, this is another very nice hotel with an impressive collection of masks and, through much of the day, a gamelan player in the entry area.
    • I took a quick dip in the hotel’s pool and then
    • Enjoyed a tasty meal at the hotel’s restaurant. (My upgraded room included half-board. :-) )

    To be continued….

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    kja, I've greatly enjoyed following your adventures, not the least your expanding insights into the basic lack infrastructure throughout most of the country. The government services we take for granted in developed countries -- education, health care, waste management, transportation and most importantly rule of law -- are inaccessible to many Indonesians. This was said of the Congo (by Barbara Kingsolver) but I think it's apt for Indonesia as well: A rich country full of poor people.

    I'm working on a project involving handmade heritage textiles from all over Indonesia and expect to be spending time in Central Java again soon.

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    @ marmot – Thanks for chiming in, and especially,

    • My sincere thanks for your insights into the challenges Indonesians face. Although I try to avoid imposing my standards on the cultures I am fortunate enough to visit, I admit that I had more than a few moments on this particular trip, and specifically in Indonesia, when I was painfully aware of how difficult life must be for so very many people. No one complained – quite in contrast, I encountered incredibly humble and hardworking people who laughed easily and seemed infinitely resourceful in finding ways to bring joy and beauty into their lives. But I was well aware of how impossibly wealthy I must seem to them, and I found it heartbreaking to think of some of the incredibly difficult choices that so many Indonesians seem to face: To let children drive motorcycles, and risk injury or death, to keep them in school; to face the life-long pain of an improperly set bone because one can’t pay for outpatient treatment; to choose to leave one’s spouse and children for months or years at a time, just for the chance to make enough money in a distant and lonely part of the world.
    • I know these things happen in my country, too, and I’ve known too many Americans who have faced similar decisions. As a U.S. citizen, I am sometimes appalled and even ashamed of some of my country’s policies, both domestic and international; but I am nonetheless very proud of my country and am well aware that my citizenship gives me privileges that are unimagineable to the vast majority of the world’s people. And despite sometimes inexplicable actions – even the horribly tragic events of the last few days – I remain optimistic that we, as a country, can move forward. Still,
    • I was naively ill-prepared for the seeming pervasiveness of some problems in Indonesia, particularly against the backdrop of the area’s history as a colony treasured for its resources. I know – stupid of me, and proof of the dangers of just a little knowledge against a field of substantial ignorance.
    • If my comments seem thoughtless or unjust, my sincere apologies -- I also don’t know how to voice these thoughts in the way in which I intend them – with respect and compassion, and without judgment. To say that, “Indonesia is a rich country full of poor people” may be as close as I can get, and I thank you, marmot, for that adaptation of Kingslover’s words.

    • IMO, the textiles of the region are extraordinary. I envy, and applaud, your effort to gather them. I felt so fortunate just to see some of them!

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    kja, I read your comments as overwhelmingly respectful, compassionate and non-judgmental. I have a feeling you'll be back before too long. My experience is that travel in Indonesia and the rest of Southeast Asia can become a serious addiction. :)

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    Beautiful writing kja, a pleasure to read! You have perfectly captured the contrasting beauty and ugliness, serenity and chaos, poverty and richness, hassle and relaxation of Asian streets that can be so confusing and fascinating to visitors.

    I was going to ask if you will post links to your photographs, but your description of the Borobudur sunrise can't be beat by a photo. My wife and I hiked to the top of Merapi after seeing it from Borobudur, so your description of it emerging from the darkness had special meaning for me.

    One of the closest times I ever came to dying was renting a motorcycle in Indonesia. Your descriptions of the streets brought back some white-knuckled memories. Traffic lights, street signs and lane markers, all mere suggestions.

    Looking forward to more! Fantastic report, bring it on!

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    Wonderful report, kja! I'm so glad you enjoyed the Ramayana Ballet (and the wonderful gamelon accompaniment) and my restaurant recommendation nearby.

    You managed to see so much - a tribute to your organization and planning. I will admit there were places Cheryl and I didn't get to even though they were on my list and even though I had been there before.

    Looking forward to more...

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    @ marmot: Terima kasih banyak. I know I would love to return to Indonesia; I also know that I came away with a treasure trove of memories that will last a lifetime. :-) :-) :-)

    @ Nelson: What lovely compliments – thank you! It seems that you, too, have a knack for capturing the contrasts of the area in words … and in deeds. Hiking Merapi must have been nearly as wonderful as renting a motorcycle was terrifying! :-O

    @ tripplanner001: Indeed, privileged at home and privileged to be able to travel.

    @ Kathie: Oh yes, that evening – sunset at Candi Prambanan and gourami at Kali Opak and the exquisite Ramayana ballet and gamelan orchestra – was utterly magical :-), and I thought of you and Cheryl, and the inspiration you had given me, often. Thank you!

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    This TR just has made me go look at my scanned slides from our trip! The Ramayana Ballet and gamelon at Prambanan was mesmerizing. By luck we were there on a date in June when there was a performance. I have photos of the ballet dancers that seem to mimic the scenes of the relief sculptures on the ruins. Fascinating.

    Thanks again for the report!

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    @ Nelson: You were lucky to hit a performance of the Ramanaya Ballet at Prambanan on a night when there was a performance. In contrast, I reserved my ticket before I booked my flight. ;-)

    Day 13: Central Java -- Surakarta (Solo)

    • The breakfast buffet at the Royal Surakarta Heritage would have seemed much more impressive if I hadn’t just left the Phoenix. ;-) It offered a wide array of Eastern and Western options, and staff were very helpful and attentive. My first stop of the day was the
    Mangkunegaran Palace, where I literally almost passed out from the heat and humidity. Once sufficiently hydrated, my guide -- the palace can be visited ONLY with a guide – proceeded to take me around. Unfortunately, my interest in the displays seemed to vary in inverse proportion to the guide’s idea of what to highlight – the more interesting I thought something, the less inclined he seemed to even stop to comment on it, and vice versa. :-(
    • At one point, this guide told me that a Javanese man is expected to have five things: (1) a home, (2) transportation, (3) a kris (an ornamental – and potentially deadly – knife to be used in defense of one's honor), (4) at least one songbird (oh, THAT’S why there are so many caged birds around!), and (5) a wife. I asked what a woman was expected to have; he laughed. I asked again, and after a very deep breath, he explained to me – with decided patience -- that a woman does not need to have anything. She is meaningful because she is one of the five things a man is to have. And, he was sure I realized, since a man can’t have children without her, she is not just meaningful, she is also important. Hmm. I would have found this explanation more satisfying if I were sure he was speaking of the past.

    • I then went to the Radya Pustaka Museum, which – despite the evidence that the building could could use some TLC -- holds a worthy collection of various objects of significance to Javanese culture, many of obvious excellence in craftsmanship or design and generally beautifully displayed, if in showcases that could use a good dusting.
    • With the help of the nearby tourist information office, I located a place just a few blocks away where I could get a beer – aah! Refreshed, I turned to

    • The stunning House of Danar Hadi, a museum that holds a breathtaking array of batik spanning time, region, and style. An extremely informative guide provided a wealth of interesting details, and a few very experienced batik workers were on hand, allowing the opportunity to watch various techniques for the application of wax. They apparently work 6 days a week, but get off an hour early on Saturdays. Another reminder of how fortunate I am to have been born when and where I was, and how much I owe to those who fought for labor rights. I browsed the Danar Hadi shop briefly and then headed to the

    Pasar Klewer (a traditional market), which was closing up for the day. Most of the stalls that were still open sold clothing, but there were a few produce stands still open, too.
    • Returning to my hotel, I took a quick dip in the pool and then a long bubble bath in my room’s oversized tub next to windows affording views of the lovely decorative objects in my room, which were from the region. :-) I then walked to

    Taman Sriwedari for a performance of wayang orang (a masked dance, which I believe can mean people with actual masks, or people using pronounced and generally recognized facial expressions, “virtual” masks). The auditorium was slowly filling with lots of families; two young mothers near the front waved me into the empty seat between them, and we shared a lot of laughter as their children amused themselves. Eventually,
    • a gamelan orchestra began to play. The first performance was a dance by six young ladies who seemed a bit too nervous to fully embrace their roles. And then
    • masked segments of the performance began. Despite the merits of the performance,
    • I was tired, hungry, and hot, and the crowd was loud, and many people were smoking :-( (another surprise to me: how many Indonesians smoke); I left after only a half-hour or so.
    • As on my walk to the theater, I saw many food stands along the way, each sending out inviting aromas. Some food stands had a few tables; many more were instead surrounded by small carpets where people sat, sometimes whole families. And many of those carpets seemed to hold young couples, seated so that it was clear that there was space between them, but with eyes only for each other.
    • Returning to my hotel, I had another tasty dinner.

    Day 14: Central Java -- SoloSangiran -- Candi Sukuh

    • Along with a variety of other tasty treats, my breakfast this day included a delicious black rice porridge, a local specialty that one of the servers suggested I might like. And I did!!! :-)
    • I then took one of the hotel’s tuktuks to

    • the Kraton Surakarta. Unfortunately, much of this palace was destroyed by fire, and while a few parts allow glimpses into an illustrious past, many sections are in sad need of repair.
    • An odd moment as I left: In the absence of a shared language, the tuktuk driver who brought me to the kraton had – I think? -- been insistent about waiting for me, and I had – I think? -- agreed, but – oh no! -- I wasn’t at all sure that the driver who swept me up was the right one, especially after the aggressiveness of the tuktuk drivers in Jogja! I asked him to stop, acting as though I desparately wanted a photo of something I had just seen, and used that moment to discretely confirm that he was my driver. ;-) He was.
    • Back at the hotel, I met my next driver: Didi (dee-dee), another very nice gentleman, but in this case, language was a bit of a barrier. He spoke more English than I spoke Indonesian, but neither of us knew enough of the other language to do more than share a few very limited thoughts. Thankfully, just a few words and a lot of gestures can actually communicate a lot!
    • Not far from Solo, I saw, first-hand, another disadvantage of a road system that basically routes everyone along the same streets: We reached an area where the road was being resurfaced, and traffic was reduced to a single lane each way. With so much traffic, I can understand that the choice was to block out a LONG stretch of road for a LONG time, and we were there for a very long time indeed! Motorcycles could, however, proceed. (Yet another reason, tripplanner001, why they are a preferred means of transportation in the area.)

    • Our first stop was Sangiran, where a museum celebrates the discovery of Java man. I thought the museum’s displays were well designed to educate visitors. I especially liked that it provided information on the local scientists who had been critical to the discoveries. The museum as a whole was, unfortunately, a bit out-of-date, but then, discoveries about our evolutionary heritage have been so frequent in recent years that the lag is, perhaps, understandable. I was glad to see the number of children and adolescents there – so nice to see young people exploring science!

    • Didi then began the LONG drive to our next destination, Candi Sukuh. Back through the road-block (with another LONG wait) and into Solo, out in another direction, along seemingly endless stretches of continuous buildings, and then – finally! – into areas dominated by rice paddies and various fields. And then, at long last,
    • we began to climb, slowly at first, and then more and more steeply…. I think I caught some climpses of Gudung Lawu in the distance; I won’t swear to it. The strips of terraced land to either side became more and more narrow and the height of the barriers between terraces became taller and taller and it had started raining and we were on a very narrow, twisty road and then, suddenly

    • There we were, at Candi Sukuh!
    • And it was closed. :-(
    • But a man came out, Didi spoke with him, and in I went. :-)
    • Candi Sukuh was built in an architectural style that was different than that of the other temples I visited in Java, and was also distinct in the obvious eroticism of many of its reliefs. Sections were undergoing work and covered with scaffolds, but there was still much to see – including glorous views out over the lush and misted countryside.

    • After I finished a leisurely visit, Didi and I descended the mountain as the sun set, offering some dramatic skies, if not views of any volcanos.
    • Once back at my hotel, I took a chance: Could the spa fit me in? Yes! My first (ever) facial was decidedly enjoyable – I can see why people seek them out! :-)
    • Another satisfying dinner before preparing for an early morning departure….

    To be continued….

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    Glad to hear that your journey to Candi Sukuh was not for naught. And I just added it to my list for the next time I go to Java as we never made it this far east on the island during our visit.

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    Wow - you really packed in the sights!

    I am glad you were able to see Candi Sukuh. It is so different from the other temples. The architectural style looked to me like it had been transported from central America. The two times I was there, there were young couples making offerings for fertility.

    When we were last in Solo, it turned out the batik museum was closed. I was quite disappointed - glad you got to see it.

    Looking forward to more!

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    This is really good. You have me telling my kids, the next time we go to Indonesia, we will go back to Bali but will also explore Java...They are like mom, you swore we will go to Latin America before we take another trip anywhere in Africa, Asia or Europe! I am like, I know, I know, but I am reading this awesome report...

    But I am mad at you too. I am supposed to be writing an important report, and I keep getting distracted by checking to see if you have written anything new! LOL!

    Great stuff!

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    @ tripplanner001: It was so nice of the man at Candi Sukuh to let me in! Now, prepare for a vicarious journey to East Java….

    @ Kathie: Yes, I sure do pack a lot into my trips -- when say that I like to take advantage of every moment of every trip, I mean it! In fact, with all the time in cars (lovely, air-conditioned cars :-) ) and on massage tables, I had more “down” time than usual on this trip. ;-) I do hope you and Cheryl get to see the Batik Museum in Solo some day – it is outstanding. And what a treat it must have been to see the offerings for fertility at Candi Sukuh!

    @ Lolazahra: Sounds like I’m causing you trouble on both the family and work fronts – so sorry! ;-) I’m glad you are enjoying my report; thanks for letting me know!

    Day 15: Java -- Solo to Blitar

    • Making sure I included black rice porridge in my breakfast, I enjoyed the hotel’s varied breakfast buffet and welcoming service one last time. I checked out and
    • took a taxi to the train station, where I easily purchased a ticket for, and soon boarded, a very comfortable train to Blitar. (I was happy to note that announcements were offered in English, among other languages.)
    • I spent most of this 4.5 hour ride relaxing and catching up on my journal. Despite the rain that prevented me from seeing the volcanos of this pat of Java, I enjoyed the lush and varied scenery.
    • A very interesting, articulate, and thoughtful woman who was traveling with her young son engaged me in a discussion about the U.S. I was delighted to have a chance to interact with a modern Indonesian woman, but also felt incredibly frustrated to be unable to answer her well-considered questions, not because of a language barrier, but because I had no answers to some of her questions about the attitudes of some Americans, our foreign and domestic policies, etc. :-(
    • Approaching Blitar, there were hints of volcanos in the distance…. And then the station and a young man named Jeckycen met me and took me to

    • the Hotel Tugu Blitar, noted for its suites. I was not staying in one of them. Frankly, my room was about as basic as it gets – but I knew that when I booked. The room was, at least, acceptable. And staying here had a number of advantages, including admirable service, some very pleasant common areas, and
    • a high tea that offered a choice of teas and a sample of several very tasty treats. It was served in a lovely, covered, open-air terrace that was decorated with some beautifully crafted Javanese artifacts. :-)

    • The city square – Alun Alun -- was just a few blocks away, so I went there and found couples enjoying a tree-shrouded gazebo and a soccer team practicing on a large field and people making use of public exercise equipment and mothers watching their children in a play area and – as the sun began to set – more and more people approaching the surrounding food carts and vendors….
    • There was a mosque to one side with architectural details that seemed decidedly Dutch to me (I could be wrong!),
    • and on my way back to my hotel, the arrangement of glass bricks in a building or two struck me as Art Deco.

    • I then took advantage of the hotel's delightful spa – a massage, “lulur” scrub (in this case, ground rice, turmeric, ginger, nuts, cinnamon, sandalwood, and a bit of jasmine oil), followed by a bath in a flower-filled tub. Aaah…! This treatment took more than 2 hours, and I could barely walk afterwards -- what a treat! :-) :-) :-)
    • A nice meal at the hotel’s restaurant provided a pleasant end to my day.

    Day 16: East Java -- Blitar +

    • Breakfast buffet options were limited and were primarily Indonesian, but they were tasty. (Only a few rooms seemed to be occupied, so the selection might be wider when more fully booked.) The serving staff could not have been nicer! Then
    • Jeckycen met me as scheduled for the first stop of our day trip –

    Telaga Pacuh, a small, nearly still pond with rice paddies to one side, a small glade on another, and huge old trees lining the rest. A couple of fishermen were whiling away their time, and a young couple seemed so absorbed in each other’s company that I can’t say they paid much attention to the pond. Fed by a natural spring, I had read that it was once considered a sacred place, and I could see why! Jeckycen admitted that he had never heard of it and asked why I had wanted to see it; I explained, and also pointed out that it might be a nice place to bring a date. He didn’t seem convinced. ;-)

    • From there, we went to Candi Penataran – another jaw-droppingly amazing temple complex, built much later than those of central Java. Some of the details were breathtaking, like the intertwined dragons’ tails along the bases of some of the structures. :-) (I thought of Cheryl’s inspiring photos while here!) Too,
    • although there were others there, it was not nearly so crowded as the other major temple ruins I had visited, and I enjoyed the chance to move about quite freely.
    • I also spent a few moments watching a hen and her eight following chicks, two of whom kept rolling down the hill they were trying to climb. I hope they made it up! Next:

    Candi Sawentar, another temple that had been partially buried in lava, but much more angular and geometric in design than any of the other temples I remember visiting. And then on to

    Kampung Coklat, which was not what I expected. I had thought I was visiting a working chocolate plantation where I could see how cacao is grown and chocolate produced. I entered what seemed much more like a huge food hall.
    • There was an area with what I assumed must be cacao trees, and as I was looking at them, a pair of young staff approached me and asked if I wanted to learn more. Yes! A few minutes later, we were done with that. ;-) (Literally: they showed me a bean that was ready to plant and let me push it into a small pot of soil; they showed me how much a cacao grows in a week; they told me the age of the trees I was seeing. That was pretty much it.) Then one of them
    • treated me to a very tasty cold chocolate drink and took me to an area where I could ice a chocolate lollipop. When in Rome….
    • I asked if the facility included a place showing chocolate production, and was then taken to a very small room where chocolate poured from a large vat into a small pan; a single employee worked there. A far cry from the Broc chocolate factory in Switzerland, or Hershey’s in Pennsylvania! It turns out that the cacao beans are shipped to Malaysia to be crushed, and then reimported and combined here with powdered milk, sugar, and butterfat. Next:
    • the shop, where I tasted several very good chocolates. I really appreciated one tasting tray which allowed comparison of 80%, 90%, and 100% dark chocolates -- interesting! :-)
    • I can’t imagine that I would have put Kampung Coklat on my wish list for the area had I known what I would experience, but I will also say that I enjoyed it and have no regrets about spending an hour there. And my kudos to the staff!

    • As on many other days in Java, the air was thick enough (so very hot and humid! :-( ) that I could easily have been convinced, on the way back to the Tugu Blitar, that the island doesn’t really have any volcanos.
    • The hotel had sent a cooler along with the car – a complimentary platter of fresh fruit, cold mineral water, and cool cloth napkins. How nice! :-) I tried to convince Jeckycen to share the fruit, but he declined.

    • Then, despite the weather, I did one of my favorite things when traveling – I took a long, rambling, aimless walk.
    • I was greeted, whether shyly or boldly, but lots of children, some of whom decided to follow me while pretending they weren’t – so cute!
    • I learned that being located by one of Blitar’s ravines is probably not a prime selling point for real estate – each glimpse I had into a ravine showed a stream and a LOT of litter. (I would guess that rushing water during the rainy season can be quite problematic.)
    • Part of my walk took me through an area that seemed quite poor, but no matter how small and cluttered the space in front of a residence, there was at least a small area that had been carefully cleaned and a songbird or flowering plant.
    • I also walked through an area of spacious homes surrounded (and largely hidden) by lush vegetation. And,
    • near the Alun Alun, a flock of HUGE white birds took off from a tree just as I walked beneath, and then alit again, and took off again… the air seemed alive with their beating wings!
    • It was a long walk, but a welcome one. Then
    • Back to my hotel for a quiet evening and another pleasant dinner.

    … to be continued

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    A little late here but back reading your report!.

    First of all way up there I meant that in India most cars DO have dents or scratches so looks like they are far more careless there about driving. Of course when to get in a lane there you get on the gas and the horn its no wonder. :D.

    Your description of the Dieng Plateau is idyllic. I suppose the locals are very friendly and must love it to see foreigners so they want their pics taken. yes after a bit it can be tiresome but also seems like they honor you by doing so. How cello to have coffee in dodos house!! For me this is an element of travel that is priceless like your trip, just like your trip! How cool was it for that cat to honor you as well. :). I bet the beer was good too. :). And why a giant chicken?? Whats chicken to them, like cows to Indians?

    We too have encountered aggressive touts. I have said no like a thousand times but what seems to work best is to say nothing, make no eye contact and walk away. I don't know what snakefuit is but last week at the Taste of Chicago I had sausage made from rabbit and yes rattlesnake. Not bad at all.

    Oksena yes I do love Singapore. If I won like 300 mil. in the lotto I would move there, at least to skip Chicagos winters. :D.

    Candi Sambisari. Is that sort of like a smaller version of Pompei?

    It sounds like your guides are so knowledgable and so affordable. Wow. This is impressive. A well schooled guide adds immeasurably to your experience but they often cost a lot of $$$.

    I was watching an episode of Anthony Bourdains parts Unknown and it was from the Philippines. There as an acronym, FWA or Filipinos Working Abroad and at the beginning of this show you see so many at airports leaving to be away from their families for long stretches just to make money to make ends meet at home. Its very sad. Cruise ship employees are composed of many from all over the world in this situation. :(.

    Sad to see of womens status there. I hope this was an isolated opinion ands that things are changing if it is true. Also sad to see how many smoke there but I do believe this is the case in most of Asia.

    You mentioned that at Blitar the breakfast options were mostly Indonesian. So what is a typical Indo breakfast if you can recall?

    This is a great TR! Still following! Obviously. :D.

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    @ jacketwatch: Wow, you are not only reading, but reading attentively!

    • Oh, if the requests to have a picture taken with me had only stopped at the Dieng Plateau! Instead, the requests seemed never-ending in Java, and even in a few of the less touristed parts of Bali. I don’t understand the motivation, but I’m sure there was nothing unkind about it – I think your phrasing is right on target: They honored me by asking.
    • I completely agree that the chance to have coffee with Dodo in his house was priceless and the invitation was quite an honor. :-) And I loved that he realized that I would appreciate that wonderfully bizarre "chicken." I admit that I kept wanting to ask, “Via chicken? Via not a duck?” but I suppressed the urge – I don’t think the reference would have been particularly easy to explain. ;-)
    • Rabbit sausage and rattlesnake? BYH! Did you like them?

    • I visited two temples that had been partially buried in lava and later excavated: Candi Sambisari and Candi Sawentar. I don't think a comparison to Pompeii particular apt: For one thing, it is my understanding – and I could easily be wrong! – that they were already abandoned when they were partially buried. Too, these temples were constructed primarily of lava stone, and although there might have been elements of wood or other combustible material, the structures themselves generally survived the lava flows, and the lava covered only their lower parts. In contrast, Pompeii was destroyed by superheated ash, not lava. In that sense, a comparison to Herculaneum might be more apt – but Herculaneum was completely covered by lava and was, I believe, still a functioning city at the time. And while I don’t know what happens in Italy, the discovery of a partially buried Javanese temple can create some complications: I believe that both of the temples I saw were discovered by farmers, who then lost their property (and so their fields) to excavation and preservation. I read and was told that it creates a dilemma for anyone who stumbles upon a bit of a ruin on his or her land.

    • I was very fortunate to work with some excellent guides. :-) As a rule, I prefer to not work with guides, and not just because of the expense (although that is a factor), but also because I like roaming places at my own pace and with a good guidebook or two – and I always load up my Kindle for just those moments! But it turns out that public transportation to many of the things I wanted to see in Java is limited, so trying to see things on my own would have meant using a lot of my very precious time to get to just one or two places. Having traveled so far for this particular “trip of a lifetime,” I opted for the convenience and efficiency afforded by (air-conditioned :-) ) cars, and the concommitant opportunity to make fuller use of my limited time. I was very impressed by the knowledge shown by my guides; I can’t speak to how common that is, but I suspect that the fact that I arranged them through well-established and well-regarded hotels probably meant a greater assurance of knowledge than other methods for locating them.

    • As for the role of women, my sense – and again, I could be way off – is that much of both Java and Bali remains deeply traditional, and the traditions involved substantial differentiations of labor, status, and rights between men and women – as has been true in most cultures of most ages. I think it is very hard to change such traditions, so I was impressed by some signs that seemed, to me, to signal a bit of softening of the edges: Several men mentioned that they have taken on some tasks that were traditionally (and apparently are often still) assigned to women – things like helping clean the house or prepare food or changing an infant’s diapers. And certainly, the woman I met on the train to Blitar did not seem to fit into a traditional role, or at least my idea of one. Cultural change is hard, and I suspect that the fact that tourists come to these places, in part, to observe cultural traditions must complicate things.

    • The Indonesian breakfast options that I recall most clearly included fried rice with some vegetables and seasonings (sometimes hot, sometimes room temperature); a similar noodle dish (meaning it also had some vegetables and seasonings and was sometimes hot and sometimes cold – the actual ingredients could have been quite different!), the aforementioned black rice porridge served with a cocunut puree, platters of fresh fruit, and a delicious hot soup made of a flavorful chicken broth into which one could add one’s choice of bits of chicken and/or vegetables. One of my favorites, which I saw only once, included halved hard-boiled eggs that had been marinaded in (and were served in) some kind of incredible liquid that turned the eggs nearly purple and tasted devine. :-)

    • Thanks so much for following along and asking great questions!

    Day 17: East Java -- Blitar to Malang

    • Breakfast again included a limited selection of tasty dishes. I readied for the day, packed, and left my suitcase at the desk before Jeckycen drove me (free of charge, at the hotel’s insistense) to the

    Pasar Burung Dimoro – Blitar’s bird market. As already noted, owning caged birds is common in Java, and I’d heard about frequent contests in which judges assign prizes (including not just the honor of recognition, but also a monetary award) to the best songbirds. This market had a LARGE area in which songbirds were on display – several covered pavillions where various vendors had arranged their cages, surrounded by several stalls that also displayed birds. As I roamed around,
    • an older gentleman decided to facilitate my efforts, and he did so very gently: He never approached me directly, but he discreetly signaled which cages I should note, moving from place to place to provide this “advice.” We eventually
    • exchanged a few words, and he seemed so pleased! Before I left, I asked if I might take a picture of him, and he absolutely beamed!
    • The market also held an area that I believe was used for selling poultry for cooking, an area I skipped. And
    • there was a separate area in which large woven cages held what looked from a distance like roosters? Oh, yes – OMG, there’s a cockfight! :-O I walked away as quickly as I could. I did know, in advance, that cockfighting is still practiced in parts of Indonesia; I had no interest in seeing it.
    • (Jeckycen had also asked why I wanted to this market – I wonder if he thought it had to do with the cockfights?)

    • I then walked to Pasar Legi – Blitar’s traditional market. While enjoying the vibrant colors and beautiful displays of produce, I did what I always do in markets – I asked the vendors if it was OK to take pictures of their goods. With almost no exception, these vendors did not want me to photograph their produce …
    • unless I included them in the pictures! They posed, invited their friends in for more shots, asked me to catch them in other poses, called out to others in different parts of the market to tell them to get ready, etc. Lots of laughter all around. :-)
    • I soon returned to my hotel for farewells and a another gratis ride with Jeckycen, this time to the train station for my

    train to Malang. During this short (1.5 hour) trip, I caught a few glorious glimpses of distant mountains. :-) Aftr a while, the train began climbing slowly but steadily: Malang is in the mountains and is, I’m glad to say, a bit cooler than the parts of Java I had visited so far.
    • Greeted at the station by a driver sent by my hotel, I was soon delivered into attentive hands of the Hotel Tugu Malang staff. What a wonderful hotel! I don’t seek luxury in my travels, so am unaccustomed to the level of service here – WOW!!! Just one example: There was a gorgeous bowl of peelable fruits in the room, along with a fruit knife wrapped in a towel and a finger bowl filled with water and a flower blossom … all replenished daily. :-) I had arrived in time for
    • High tea – a range of sweets and savories, one’s choice of teas, all in a beautiful setting and with impeccable service… :-)
    • I took a quick dip in the pool before taking advantage of the free 15-minute introductory massage – which I had extended by about an hour at a truly affordable cost. I ended my evening with
    • A delicious dinner at the hotel’s restaurant.

    Day 18: East Java -- Malang +

    • The hotel offered a choice of either a Western or an Eastern breakfast; I enjoyed my generous Western selection. Afterwards, I walked to the nearby
    Pasar Bunga – Malang’s flower market. Glorious! I think I inadvertently roamed into an area with nurseries and the homes of the florists (oops!), but no one gave me any reason to think I was trespassing. I had just a few minutes for Malang’s
    Pasar Senggol – its bird market, with its row of shops selling cages with songbirds – before

    • returning to my hotel to meet Ariadna (sp?), who would be my driver for a visit to several temples circling the area. He didn’t speak much English, but his English trumped my Indonesian, and there weren’t that many things that required communication. I had asked to visit a series of temples that circly Malang, and that’w what we did: We went first to
    ... Candi Kidal, decorated on 3 sides with a man-bird beast;
    ... Candi Jago, with its large altar-like sections and intricately carved panels;
    ... Candi Singosari, where the usual carvings of heads of temple protectors over some doorways had been left oddly incomplete;
    ... Candi Sumberawan, which seemed to me like the base of a stupa, set in a wooded area with a small statue-decorated grotto to one side and glimpses beyond to a distant waterway in which young boys were skinny-dipping ;-) ; and finally
    ... Candi Badut, with a particularly graceful Shiva relief to one side.
    • Over the course of the day, I caught glimpses of several different and beautiful volcanos, including Mt. Arjuna, Mt. Kawi, and maybe even Mt. Semeru. The massive and extensive Bromo caldera also loomed above the horizon once in a while. :-)

    • Once I returned to the hotel, I finalized a plan for a car and driver – actually, a JEEP and driver – for the next day. Arranged by a man at the Tugu’s desk, and at a substantial discound for paying cash, it was much more than I hoped to pay, but I’m not sure I could have gotten a better rate. And at least I had a plan that met my interests in place! I had just enough time to freshen before another
    • High Tea in the same lovely setting, but with a completely different set of sweets and savories. :-) I then went for

    • A long walk. I started in an area that holds many lovely homes, surrounded by lawns and gardens, that date from the Dutch Colonial days, and then, turning, a long stretch along a divided highway with stunningly glorious (if distant) views of the sun setting behind Mt. Kawi. :-) Turning into a more commercial district, I briefly visited
    • Malang’s Alun Alun (city square), where teens were skate-boarding and young couples were strolling, and then – just blocks from my hotel, I
    • Took a wrong turn and became completely lost! :-(
    • Fortunately, I recognized my error relatively soon, and so got back on track without too much of a detour. Had it been earlier in the day, or had I been less tired (I was TIRED!), I would have welcomed the opportunity. I am glad I saw a few off-the-beaten track areas where locals seemed to congregate; I was also

    • glad to get back to my hotel and off my feet. :-)
    • After a brief, but relaxing, dip in the pool, I
    • Took a tour of the hotel itself, which has a number of interesting areas and some museum-quality antiques and Indonesian and Peranakan (Indonesian with Chinese heritage) artifacts. I then enjoyed another
    • Delicious dinner at the hotel’s restaurant.

    To be continued….

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    Malang sounds like a place I would enjoy. How do the temples there compare to what you saw in Central Java?

    The noodle dish you referred to is probably mee goreng and the fried rice nasi goreng.

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    @ tripplanner001:
    • IMO, Borobudur and Prambanan – both in Central Java -- are extraordinary and well deserving of their UNESCO designation as World Heritage Sites. (Candi Mendut, with its unusual seated Buddha -- mentioned upthread by Kathie -- also merits mention, and is included in the UNESCO designation of the Borobudur complex, of which it is part.)
    • Although I’m no expert, I also thought Candi Plaosan and Candi Sukuh (in Central Java), and Candi Penataran (in East Java) awesome.
    • For me, all the rest were “icing on the cake.” And I like icing! ;-) But they were generally smaller, and while I found unique elements to appreciate in each (and was glad that the range of my exposure helped me better identify the features that were unusual or particularly well crafted or whatever), none of the others had the same WOW factor of the “major” temples listed above – at least for me.
    • As you’ve undoubtedly noted, that means that I found a number of jaw-droppers in Central Java, but only one jaw-dropper in East Java.

    ... Those names of dishes sound familiar – thanks!

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    Were there lots of school children at the various temples when you were there, kja? I think there were school groups at almost every temple we visited, with the exception of a few. I'm glad you enjoyed Penataran as much as we did. It's the sort of place that could easily be a UNESCO site (the carving is so fine!) but the complex is small and it would be overrun.

    We loved the Tugu hotels. We only stayed at the one in Malang, but we visited the one in Blitar. The hotels are filled with lovely (local) antiques and artwork.

    I'm really enjoying this trip with you!

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    There's little I can say other than WOW! Such a great trip and your report is so well written. I dream of following in your footsteps. This has been a great journey along with you.

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    @ tripplanner001: Indeed! I want to remember these names when I next have the chance to dine on Indonesian food.

    @ Kathie: There were a lot of school children at various temples, especially in Bali. I think they had just finished up with a bunch of required annual exams, and that might be why I saw fewer in Java. My drivers told me that schools make a point of taking the kids on day trips to major sites, and I was glad to hear that there is an effort to make sure they have the chance to experience these amazing parts of their cultural heritage. And I’m also glad that you are enjoying this trip with me, since I often felt, during this trip, that I was traveling with you!

    @ dgunbug: Again, thanks for the compliments! If you are able to get to this part of the world, I don’t think you’ll regret it.

    Day 19: East Java -- Malang to Bromo

    • One more delicious breakfast, and it was time to check out and join my driver for the day –
    • Hari, who spoke English well and was very experienced in guiding foreigners through this part of Java. Once we left the city behind us,

    • Mists dominated the landscapes, separating each ridge from others and delicately veiling elusive glimpses of distant … what? Oh, no – not another day of hidden volcanos? Too early to tell, I reminded myself.
    • After declining an opportunity to see a waterfall (because of a very minor injury, suffered while traveling, that made stairs difficult :-( ), our first stop was
    • An overlook of the ”savannah”. Oh, how beautiful! :-) :-) (Many thanks to crellston and gr21 for making sure I knew to take the southern / savannah route!) Uncounted shades of green covering undulating, vuluptuous slopes between the ancient volcanic rim – upon which I was standing – and the slopes of the newer volcanoes (tops hidden) within the caldera. With an abundant array of yellow and purple blooms near the overlook, the overall impressions were truly stunning! We also stopped briefly at a
    • small village, where preparations were underway for a major Hindu celebration. (This area is unusual in Java, in that the majority of its people are Hindu.) Interesting! Our route then took us

    • down into the caldera floor, beyond the savannah to largely barren lava fields. We visited the
    • “lion rock” – which does indeed look a lot like a sitting lion. Having been headed directly to this rock, I wasn’t paying attention to the scenery to the left of the jeep, and so was stunned to find that within just a few moments, we had crossed a sightline –

    • I could now see Mr. Bromo (meaning the specific volcano called Mt. Bromo, which is among the volcanos – I think there are five! -- that now populate the enormous ancient caldera that goes by the name of Bromo) … and I could see that Mt. Bromo was spewing huge amounts of volcanic ash high into the sky!!! It was smoking (sending up white vapor), and it was also ejecting voluminous, roiling grey clouds – ash. Oh my!!!
    • Hari said that it had been doing so on-and-off for about 4 months, and that it was quite safe – and that I was lucky, since it had been quiet just the day before. I admit that I had checked for warnings the night before, and at this point, it wasn’t like I had a lot of options. ;-)
    • We stopped for a while at small camp-like place from which local guides take interested tourists on horseback (using small horses, like those at Gedung Songo) to a Hindu temple near the base of Mt. Bromo; from the temple, tourists can climb the mountain. While I’m sure I would have enjoyed the temple, I wasn’t inclined to climb Mt. Bromo, and so we went on. Hari
    • turned uphill from the flats on an extremely narrow road that went up and up and up an extraordinarily steep slope in a series of seemingly impossible switchbacks, until we reach the parking lot for

    • a viewpoint along the caldera’s rim – the one on Mount Penanjakan from which most people apparently go for sunrise. From the parking area, I
    • climbed just a bit to reach the point from which one could look over the caldera – a place with rows of seats -- and OMG, what a vantage point! I must say, though, that there didn’t seem to be that many seats that really allowed a GREAT view – I bet the competition can get fierce!
    • While admiring the view – including the continued display of Mt. Bromo’s smoke and ash – a huge black stormcloud moved in from my right with surprising speed, soon blocking everything from sight as it dropped torrential rain. It was like watching a curtain being moved from right to left -- wow!!!

    • Hari and I sipped coffee while we waited out the worst of the storm, and then
    • went back down that incredibly narrow road of seemingly impossible switchbacks and back onto the lava flats and then onto
    • yet another impossibly narrow road climbing up the extraordinarily steep caldera rim through yet another set of seemingly impossible switchbacks until we reached

    • the Lava View Lodge, where I said farewell to Hari.
    • I had splurged for a room with a view, and although I couldn’t see the caldera floor, I could see Mt. Bromo and several other volcanic cones from my room and from the covered terrace outside. I sat there for quite a while, catching up on my journal and being awed by the ever-shifting images of the ash rising from Mt. Brono, until darkness and clouds and renewed rain obscured the view. I then
    • ate an OK meal at the lodge’s restaurant and
    • fell asleep to the sounds of a powerful rainstorm.

    Day 20: Java to Bali -- Bromo to Ubud

    • Because I wanted to see the sunrise over the Bromo caldera – my reason for spending the night here -- I once again surprised myself by managing to get up at 4 a.m.
    • It was, as I had been warned, surprisingly chilly, so I was glad that I had brought layers suitable to the low temperatures. I dressed quickly and stepped out of the door and discovered that
    • I could not lock the door to my room! :-O I tried and tried, and then
    • went to the hotel’s office, where (I am glad to report) the person on call, who was sleeping in an adjacent room, woke up quickly. He couldn’t lock it, either, and so left to get some tools….
    • Aware that time was ticking and the sunrise approaching, I began throwing everything I could into my suitcase willy-nilly. By the time the man returned,
    • I was ready to store my suitcase at the desk and insisted that we do that. The sun had not yet risen, but I was leaving my room at least ½ hour later than I had planned. :-(

    • With the help of a small flashlight I had brought with me (and thank goodness I had it!),
    • I started up a nearby slope to a place along the caldera rim that wasn’t as high as the Penanjakan overlook (which I had seen the day before), but which I had been led to believe would be less crowded.
    • Given the short distance (a walk of at most 10 or 15 minutes), I was a bit irritated when numerous guides and motorbike renters and horse renters kept stopping me to ask me to hire them. :-( I soon reached the
    • nearby overlook, where a pair of huge, bright spotlights marked a few food stalls and a dozen or so people. And then I went back just a little bit of a way to
    • a quiet place right along the caldera’s rim where a small concrete block, anchored into the land, allowed me a welcome, dark, and private place to sit. :-)

    • The sun was just beginning to tinge the clouds to the east (to my back) with the palest bits of pink, and the stars overhead and toward the west (over the caldera) were breathtakingly brilliant. Although I wish I could have gotten there while it was still completely dark, at least I was there reasonably early! And oooh my, the sunrise was magical!
    • The sky over the caldera gradually lightened, limning the slopes of the volcanos as the stars faded, eventually revealing – in a way that seemed, at first, a trick of the light -- a vast sea of mist that filled the caldera below the tops of Mt. Bromo and other volcanic cones. Utterly otherworldly! A few red dots, accompanied by the sound of motors and barely seen throught the swirling spun-candy-like clouds that filled the caldera, seemed the only color as they showed the progress of motorcycles crossing the lava flats under the cloud cover – and then it became silent. As the light grew, the cloud cover over the lava flats seemed to shift and thin; the volcanic cones in the center of the caldera became increasingly clear, as if the lighting on a theatric scrim was being shifted; the roiling column of ash over Mt. Bromo asserted itself against the brightening sky; the distant edges of the caldera gained clarity; and the mists that had filled the caldera so densely faded, ever so slowly, to wisps as the colors of the region back to take on their normal, daylight hues. Oh, my! Let me ask again: How is it that I am lucky enough to see things like this sunrise?!? :-) :-) :-)

    • As I began to arise from my perch, a distant volcanic cone – Mt. Semeru – sent a white plume into the air. OMG! Just minutes later, it stopped. I’m told I was very lucky to have seen Semeru smoke, and I can’t disagree!!
    • The caldera continued to clear; the sky continued to brighten; and Mt. Bromo continued to disgorge smoke. I finally decided that I was ready to leave.

    • It was just a few easy steps back to my hotel, where my room was still unlocked. I
    • sat on my terrace, admiring the views, adding to my journal, and preparing messages to send once I had wifi access.
    • Someone tasked with repairing the lock arrived just as the breakfast buffet opened, and shortly after I finished breakfast, hotel staff managed to repair the lock to my room. :-) I could finally prepare for the day!
    • I showered and dressed and began packing, this time with attention to the fact that I planned to take a flight later that day, and so I needed to pack in accordance with all those rules and regs that keep those of us who travel on our toes.

    • I had just finished (re)packing when my driver for the day – Paul – arrived to take me to the airport near Surabaya. He was a very pleasant man who
    • took a route that went away from the caldera, down and down and down and ... it seemed we went downhill for hours! And for much of that time, we could see bits of the sea. :-) He helped me understand what I saw on the way there and
    • he got me to the Surabaya airport in plenty of time for my flight to Bali. Actually, he got me to the airport WAY in advance of my flight because I had erred, asking for delivery 2 hours earlier than I needed to be there -- oops! :-( Better to be early than late…. ;-)

    • To be continued….

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    Your driver/guide telling you that the volcano spewing smoke and ash was "quite safe" made me laugh. On my first trip to Java, during one stop at the Dieng Plateau, we were looking at the geysers, and the guide said that the volcano was extinct. As I watched the boiling waters and boiling mud, I realized that what he meant by extinct was that it had not erupted in living memory.

    A friend of mine was recently at Bromo and sent me a link to a video he had done of his hike. So I am visualizing that video while I read your report.

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    As for the pics I suppose it was too much no matter how well intentioned.

    If you did not know what the sausage was made of you would have never guess. It was good and I think that was due to the spices used.

    Too bad for the farmers who discovered the ruins then got displaced. I would hope they were compensated in some way. As for Herculaneum I think it was like a suburb of Pompei and was for the more wealthy Romans at that time.

    I suppose traditions will change faster in more urban settings but will lag in the villages and rural societies. I do recall seeing a show some yrs. ago about a man in Indonesia who had a rare skin condition and eventually came to the US for treatment. There were female Indonesian MD featured and a hosp. admin. as well. I would be all over that breakfast!

    I saw caged cocks in Brunei and our H2O taxi driver said they practice this as well. Too much for me but I think this is common in SE Asia.

    The Tugu Malang sounds great. Its that sort of care that adds an intangible to your experience. Conversely we've had some sloppy service at places where the price you pay you would think would rule that out. However I did complain. At one place we got and apology, a bottle of Champagne and Muscatel and flowers. The other fetched a 10% overall discount and a fruit bowl. So do speak up when its warranted!

    At Candi Badut you saw a Shiva relief. So did you see Hindu temple as well and Buddhist? Indonesia is a Moslem country, the largest population wise in the world I think. There must be quite a few who practice Hinduism and Buddhism too. Did you see many if any churches?

    On our cruise stop in Cambodia we saw a lot of kids at the temples we went to also. We also went to a school and somehow I did not see that we were asked if possible to bring school supplies and many in our group did do. They depend on this and must know when tourists from the ships will be there as they seem to flock to the school on those days. The kids were beautiful too.

    If you don't mind how much did the drivers cost on average? I know it is influenced by time and distance but I'm just curious.

    I'm Hari is a volcanologist. :S-.

    Some folks get up very early to see sunrises on volcanoes like Mt. Haleakala in Hawaii. Its an experience one never forgets I suppose. I do recall something sort of similar. We were in the Baltic Sea in June 2007 which of course is white nights. It was around 0200 and we were in the stern bar on the 17th deck looking out at the wake and in the distance you could see a break between dusk and dawn as the new day was staring. I will never forget that.

    Still with you!

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    Really enjoying reading your vivid descriptions of the many highs of your trip (as well as the occasional travails!).

    Thanks for writing such an informative trip report (as well as one that is entertaining). This will be a valuable resource when we get around to exploring beyond Bali in Indonesia!

    Now looking forward to your trip to Bali!

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    Congratulations on getting up so early! So glad you got to see the volcanoes in action without getting damaged.

    Did you arrange the drivers ahead of time, or just through your hotels on arrival?

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    I finally found enough time to devote to reading your TR, which I found informative and entertaining. I appreciate all of the details you provided and hope that someday in the near future I will find the time to visit some of the places you visited. Thanks so much for posting.

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    Thursdaysd asked what I forgot and that is about how drivers were arranged.

    Also I suppose noodles among other items were on the breakfast menu is no surprise as noodles seem to be a staple all over Asia.

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    Bad idea to get too far behind in your report! :)

    I can't believe how much you packed in (!), yet somehow you make it seem like a relaxed pace. Kudus to you, guess this a case of pre-trip research paying off.

    I did have to follow along with some Google maps and photos as I'm totally unfamiliar with east Java. Less so now.

    During all the time I spent in SE Asia, both on business and for pleasure, I drew the line on purple eggs, perhaps a mistake. But I'm not a real adventurous eater.

    Super TR and commentary. Thanks for posting.

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    What a delight to find that so many of you are reading along, and with such interest! Thank you, one and all! :-)

    @ tripplanner001: After having been completely unable to see Java’s renowned volcanos for so much of my time on the island, or catching only the barest of tantalizing glimpses, I really lucked out when it mattered most – that first morning at Borobudur and this last experience in the Bromo area. Spectacularly breathtaking! I hope you get to have moments like these, too.

    @ Kathie: lol … I can’t imagine looking at the crator on the Dieng Plateau, while hearing someone say the volcano there is extinct! As it turns out, there’s a rather important difference between extinct and quiescent. ;-)

    @ jacketwatch:
    ... Java has an interesting religious history. As I understand it – and I’m no expert! -- a Buddhist monk brought Buddhism to the area in the 2nd century. But Hinduism was also a powerful force in the area, and many say it has even older roots. As Hinduism spread through the area, it generally incorporated Buddhism (and some of the local animist traditions) and included Buddha as a diety (or at least part of its pantheon -- sorry, but I don't know the proper terminology). The oldest temples I visited, which are (I believe) the oldest surviving temples in Java, were the Hindu temples of the Dieng Plateau; they date from the 7th century. The only “strictly” Buddhist temples I visited were those of the Borobudur complex (which includes Candi Mendut and Candi Pawon), built in the early 800s. All the other ruins I visited were Hindu; many (but not all) included images of Buddha. Enter Islam, stage left. As Islam grew in popularity, and as religion became a factor in regional battles among competing kingdoms, the Hindus in the area either converted or moved east. With the end of the Majapahit Empire around 1500, Hinduism had largely vanished from Java. Java remains primarily Muslim (85 or 90%), and mosques are a common sight there. (Oddly, though, I only remember hearing a call to prayer just a few times. Did I forget, or was I away from mosques at the times, or are the calls less common? I don’t know!) The small population of Hindus around Bromo – the Tenggerese people -- apparently trace their roots to their exodus from central Java with the end of the Majapahit Empire. Other Hindus moved from Java to Bali, which remains primarily Hindu today – about 85%. Some Buddhists remain in Java; for example, the Mendut Monastery remains active. I rarely saw Christian churches, although I saw one during my evening strolls in both Blitar and Malang.

    … As you suspected, the cost of a car and driver varied with the time and distance; it also varied from place to place. I think the average I paid for a full day was on the order of about $50 or $60, plus a small tip paid directly to the driver. The jeep and driver was more than that. I must admit, though, that I can’t be certain: I found it very disorienting to think in terms of multiple hundred thousand IDR – the math was reasonably easy, but there was something daunting about the numbers! Too, I had decided, in advance, that I was not going to skip something simply because of the cost, so in Java, I always asked about the cost and then had the charge added to my hotel bill, and then tried to block the costs from my mind, because my pockets are not all that deep and it made me anxious. :-( I did gently challenge one quote, saying something like it seemed high to me … could they check? And the next day, when the driver came, I was advised that the price was lower than had been quoted. I don’t know if the original amount had been in error or if that constituted successful bargaining. ;-)

    … Sounds like you’ve had some wonderful travels, too!

    … Noodles are, indeed, ubiquitous in Asia – but in Indonesia, they are eaten with Western flatware, not chopsticks. Gosh, but I hate trying to eat noodles with chopsticks! Life can be good! :-)

    @ rje: Thank you so much for your compliments! I’m glad you are finding my report both informative and entertaining.

    @ thursdaysd: Yes, my visit to Bromo worked out well – I managed to get up, and saw some awesome volcanic activity, and I lived to tell about it. Hard to beat that! ;-)

    @ thursdaysd & Jacketwatch: I arranged all my drivers in Java through my hotels, and the only “advance” part was when I wanted to arrange for someone to pick me up from an airport or train station, which I usually did just a couple of days beforehand. (I had reserved all my hotels well in advance.) I then made further arrangements once at the hotel. In Bali, I made arrangements for my airport pick-up in advance through my first hotel. For the rest of my needs there, I worked with a driver who had been recommended by the Alam Indah group, which owns several lodgings in the area that have been praised by many Fodorites over the years, such as the Alam Jiwa.

    @ shelleyk: Welcome aboard! Thanks for making the time to read this TR; I hope it proves useful when you are ready to travel to this intriguing part of the world.

    @ jdc26: I’m glad you are still enjoying your vicarious journey!

    @ Nelson: Packing a LOT into a trip turns out to be easier if you spend a chunk of time most days in an air-conditioned car. ;-) And I spent a LOT of time with maps and Google images as I researched this trip.

    @ dgunbug: Thanks again, but you – and others! -- are going to have to wait one more day to start reading about Bali, as I have one more post on Java. Hang in there!

    Some final thoughts on my time in Java:

    As noted earlier, many of my experiences in Java contributed to the things that made this trip as a whole, so special – but those were mostly the things that contributed to the diversity of my experiences. So I’ll now turn to the things I liked best and least about my experiences in Java per se.

    What I liked most about Java:

    • The people, with their open smiles, easy laughter, and gracious hospitality! Wherever I went in Java, even the tiniest connection with someone – a glance, a greeting – was all that was need to evoke a full-face, open, and welcoming smile, a smile with nothing held back. :-) I suspect that these smiles – and the warm welcome I received from SOooo many people – will be the thing that I most remember of this very memorable trip – and I don’t mean just my time in Java, but the whole trip.

    • And I had plenty of reasons to smile, too!
    … The awesome ruins, Buddhist and Hindu, of varying ages. I still can’t believe that I was lucky enough to see Borobudur at sunrise, or Prambanan at sunset, or Penataran or Plaosan or Sukuh – or any number of other temples -- at ANY time of day! …
    … The spectacular scenery of Java, from the calm of a newly flooded rice paddy through Bromo’s power and rawness; from sugar cane fields and verdant forests through age-old terraced hillsides.…
    … The variety of spectacularly entertaining and skilled performing arts …
    … and OMG, the batiks!
    … The fruits and gourami and freshly roasted peanuts and black rice porridge and ginger tea …
    … and the songbirds and collections of beautifully crafted krises and bowls of flower blossoms under massage tables …
    … and the many cats who greeted me and the fact that they didn’t fear people and what that says about how they are treated …
    … and the sincere efforts of several people to engage in honest discussion about difficult subjects…
    … and SO much more!

    What I liked least about Java

    • My inability to see many of Java’s magnificent volcanos because of the haze (really, nature should be MUCH more obligiing!) and, of course,
    • the reason for that haze was because the (ridiculously hot) air was so humid! :-(
    • The difficulty of finding a beer on a really hot day in Jogja, and elsewhere, empty mini-fridges.
    • Repeated requests to take a picture with me, even if I was being honored by these requests (thanks, jacketwatch, for that re-frame) …
    • and worse, the very few people who tried to take my picture without asking. :-(
    • The difficulty of trying to explain nonsensical things about my country.
    • The absolutely insane traffic…
    • … and so many very, very young people riding motorcycles without helmets.
    • And the signs of how very hard life is for many people in this part of the world.

    Again, the best FAR outweighted the worst!

    Next up: Bali

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    I was fortunate enough to have enjoyed a sunrise visit to Borobudur, but did not make it to Bromo on our trip; I've thought about including it for a return trip but you've made it a must. Looking forward to reliving some of my very fond memories of Bali through you.

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    Terrific report kja, very evocative. Only part way through but already it brings back to me very clearly, our time in Indonesia (and is almost tempting me to return - outside of Ramadan this time!) . Have downloaded to my iPad reader to continue on a long bus trip tomorrow.

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    Thank you for that detailed history about all those temples and the times religion came to that area or the various types of religion I mean. It's clear that the Hindu and Buddhist temples are quite ancient ass again Indonesia is now primarily Muslim. It seems that you know so much about it you could be a tour guide there. :).

    I did not know that Bali was primarily Hindu. I wonder if that has something to do with the violence that you see there from time to time .

    When we were in Hong Kong the trick to eating noodles with chopsticks is to bring the noodles up with the chopsticks and then drop them in a spoon . S:-.

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    I hit the submit button too soon so let me continue and say that actually the price for the drivers did not seem too bad at least compared to what you would pay in more developed countries. Israel in particular was literally about 10 times that cost per day.

    Your descriptions of Indonesia really make me want to go there and I can't wait to hear about what is coming next, Bali. We were in Fiji once and those people also were very very friendly and I think it's part of their culture. When we got out of the cab one day some stranger came to open the door and as I was looking for change to pay the driver another one came to my help and wanted to know if I needed change and was pointing me to a place where I could get it. Their version of "Aloha" is "Bula" and it is truly more than a greeting it is also a spirit or a way that they treat you with his with great hospitality. I wanted to try their ceremonial drink called Kava and a lady who was trying to direct me to her shop knew where some men were drinking this and she took us there. We sat down with them and it look like they were in their native garb and they were drinking this out of a wooden bowl. Before you drink it you have to clap your hands three times and then scoop it up and smaller wooden bowls and then drink it. It's made from the roots of a pepper plant and indeed it is a mild stimulant and I did feel it's effects for a couple of hrs.

    Of course this is the real beauty of travel.

    And now I'm looking forward to the rest of your report which is quite possibly one of the best I have ever seen here on this forum. Actually it's the best report sense reports we have seen here from the late and great poster "The Dogster" and if you know him then you will know this is quite a compliment and it is well deserved !

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    "When we were in Hong Kong the trick to eating noodles with chopsticks is to bring the noodles up with the chopsticks and then drop them in a spoon"

    A waitress in South Korea showed me (very decidedly, lol) that I should pick noodles or kimchi up with tongs, cut off a section with scissors and add them to a spoon of soup... Given that Korean chopsticks are horribly slippery flat metal, it was a lot easier her way.

    On the matter of religion in Indonesia, there was this rather worrying piece in the NYT last week:

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    Religion in Indonesia is a very complex matter. I remember my first trip to Java, and how our guide said that Indonesia prides itself on all of the religions living together in harmony. That is a wonderful ideal, one that most countries, including Indonesia, have had difficulty actualizing.

    Indonesia is currently predominantly Muslim, though Bali is predominantly Hindu, and Aceh, for instance, is predominantly Christian. Historically, There were times when Java was mostly Buddhist and later, mostly Hindu. There are still both Buddhists and Hindus on Java, as well as Christians.

    Jacketwatch, your comment "I did not know that Bali was primarily Hindu. I wonder if that has something to do with the violence that you see there from time to time." is off the mark. The terrorist attacks in Bali were not attacks on the local Hindu population, and have had little to do with religion and much to do with politics, just like terrorist attacks elsewhere in Indonesia. Bali was targeted because of the many foreign tourists there. Extremists were hoping to scare away the tourists.

    Thursdays, it is clear there is much division in the Muslim world, and that the extremists and the moderates are clashing in many places in the world. The people caught in these clashes are sad victims of religious extremism.

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    Kathie I did not know why there was violence there but I was wondering if the Hindu religion had something to do with that. I did not say that it did and thank you for the clarification. :).

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    "But if you go to the shopping mall, there’s no problem whatsoever,” as the restaurants are open during the day, said Bahtiar Effendy, the dean of the department of social and political sciences at the State Islamic University in Jakarta.

    He said there were no police or public order officers in the malls, “raiding and asking questions.”

    The answer is I think that they, the police can get away with this only in certain circumstances. They can bully the lone shop owner.

    I am glad that this matter or case has brought so much attention to the cops who did this and to these practices. Tolerance for ones differences. Seems like an impossibility these days, at least with some people.

    Thursdaysd if I am ever in So. Korea and I hope to be some day Ill look for that. It seems to require three instruments, tongs, scissors and a spoon. I hope after all that its really good! :D.

    Looking f/w to kja's next segment. :).

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    @ sartoric: I greatly appreciate your compliments and am happy to have your continued vicarious companionship!

    @ linawood: Glad to know you’ve found some value in my report – thanks!

    @ tripplanner001: I was incredibly glad that I chose to visit Bromo, and was blown away by it -- metaphorically! You might want to defer a full and irrevocable commitment to travelling there until closer to the time…. Just a thought! ;-) In the meantime, I’m looking forward to hearing what you choose to share about how my experiences of Bali mesh with yours.

    @ crellson: I’m glad to see you chime in, as I definitely wanted you to know that I benefited greatly from your trip report and advice! (All mis-steps in implementation are mine, and mine alone. ;-) )

    @ jacketwatch: Thank you for sharing some of your travel experiences, and thank you VERY much for such a grand compliment. (blushing) :-)

    @ thursdaysd: That article was worrying, indeed. Let us sincerely hope that tolerant voices prevail, in Indonesia and elsewhere.

    @ Kathie: Thank you for making sure the tragic attacks in Bali were promptly identified as terrorism.

    Time for tales of BALI!

    Day 20: Java to Bali -- Bromo to Ubud, continued…

    • Even a short flight can seem to require a huge chunk of time – and in this case, it seemed to do so, and not just because of my planning error. My Garuda flight was pleasant enough, but
    • even with the help of a driver from my hotel, I didn’t reach that lodging – the Kampoeng Joglo Abangan -- until about 8:15 p.m. or so. Only to find that
    • the hotel’s restaurant had closed! :-( And I was HUNGRY!
    • The hotel’s web-site very clearly said that it was open all day, and when I pointed that out, staff very kindly offered to make me a meal. I chose nasi goreng (thanks, tripplanner001, for ensuring I knew the name for fried rice!) with chicken and vegetables, and it was perfect. :-) My kudos to the staff for both a very tasty meal and their responsiveness to my needs!

    • Reminding myself that I often find the first few moments ANYWHERE stressful, I
    • settled in to my delightful bungalow (if not perfect, it was certainly VERY nice! – spacious, dominated by a super-king-size 4-poster bed draped with netting, and with several pleasant seating options, both indoors and out), and
    • enjoyed a quick dip in the hotel’s small outdoor infinity pool.
    • Taking a moment to simply float, I looked up and … OMG -- what glorious stars! Oh, I’m in the southern hemisphere – these are not the constellations I know!
    • Exhausted (it was just this morning that I’d gotten up for sunrise at Bromo!), I retired to my palatial bed and was soon asleep.

    Day 21: Bali -- Ubud

    • For a tiny place (just 6 bungalows, only some of which were occupied when I was there), I was impressed with the Kampoeng Joglo Abangan’s breakfast buffet – at least three different Indonesian dishes each day, various sausages, an egg station, breads and fruits and juices and coffee or tea, etc. :-)
    • I had two immediate goals for the day: (1) to find Rondji, a restaurant for which I had a lunch reservation through the Ubud Food Festival and that I believed would be nearby, and (2) to find the main Tourist Information desk, because I had reserved a ticket for a performance that was to occur the following night, but then received a message that I must PRINT my ticket – something I could not do! I soon set off in pursuit of these seemingly nominal goals. (Have I “given away” the fact that neither task would prove all that easy? I sure hope I haven’t eliminated the suspense! ;-) )

    • I must admit that my first few daytime impressions of Ubud were not particularly favorable. The main street that I walked that morning – and indeed, most of the streets of Ubud that I explored in my time there – seemed to me almost endless stretches of high-end shops, souvenier shops, tour stands, restaurants, spas, hotels, currency exchanges, etc.; rows of men sit outside all these businesses offering taxis or motorbikes or whatever and apparently not even paying attention to who is passing; masses of tourists walk narrow sidewalks with no apparent regard for anyone else with whom they might share those sidewalks; and there seemed to be a ridiculous amount of litter on those sidewalks. Growl!
    • … OK, I should have been prepared – but I had been so intent on avoiding the tourism of places like Kuta that I really hadn’t thought about how tourist-oriented Ubud would be! Clearly an example of poor planning on my part – really, I should have figured it out! :-( And OMG, thank goodness I did skip the so-called “touristed” parts of Bali!!!
    • (That said, there are many good reasons why tourists – including me – come to Ubud, and of course it also meant a good selection of restaurants, etc. In the end, I was very glad I stayed in Ubud! :-) :-) )
    • (BTW, every time I walked by those men hawking taxis or motorbikes, I nodded and said, in Indonesian, “no, thank you” and within days, they began greeting me politely and, however briefly, always with a huge smile. :-) )

    • I reminded myself that I often find my first few hours in a new city a bit disorienting, tooked several deep breaths, and told myself to be patient. That proved to be a bit of a challenge:
    … Why can’t I find Rondji? It’s supposed to be very close to my hotel…
    … Why all the litter? OMG, that isn’t litter – those are Hindu offerings that have been placed along the sidewalk, offerings that unthinking tourists simply walked on and through! :-( I certainly didn’t understand the traditions, but I loved that people had left these little offerings outside their shops and homes and temples!
    … I walked by any number of “tourist information” offices, only to learn then they were really just places to hawk tours, etc. Why can’t I find the one I need? Is it just another counter hawking overpriced options?
    • I’m glad to say that I finally found the Tourist Information office, right where it was supposed to be. I had managed to walk past at least three times. (My bad!) I then
    • had to work with quite a few staff before they figured out how to print my ticket.
    • Once they did, they confirmed that they would provde transportation to the performance, as long as I reached them by 6:30 or 6:40 p.m.
    • They were also able to direct me to Rondji – oh, it’s a bit to the other side of my hotel. Oops! ;-)

    • Once I had the information I needed, I visited an interesting pavillion across the street, used in the past, I believe, for village meetings and traditional events, and used today for various events and just relaxing, and
    • I strolled a random side street before stopping
    • at the Pura Taman Saraswati – OMG, what a stunning temple entryway! Walkways to either side of a small building open onto, and then join to bisect a large lotus pond, where just one bud had blossomed and others looked ready to do so. The front area of the temple was (I was to learn) typical of Ubud – reddish-orange structures were edged with stone in a pale tan; flowers adorned statuary carved of black lava; various incense and blossom bearing offerings were arrayed about… breathtaking!! :-) And
    • … SOooo very different from the Hindu temples of Singapore! While in Bali, I never saw the paint mentioned upthread. The temples I saw were made in either this style or of black lava. Many bore carved decorations, but not painted ones, wth the occasional exception of gilt trim. There were many things in brilliant colors – various plants and offerings and decorative items, but the buildings themselves were not painted. So different!
    • Although the main part of Pura Taman Saraswati was closed to tourists, there were a number of nooks and niches that I found well worth seeing.
    • Too, one corner of the entry area, with tables overlooking the lotus pond, was a Starbuck’s, and the other side held a restaurant, Café Lotus – I knew I would return!
    • My initial irritation with Ubud was wearing off quite nicely. :-)

    • As noon approached, I headed to Rondji Restaurant, which wasn’t very far away. I walked the relatively flat road back to my lodging, then downhill a bit, crossed a bridge, and then climbed just a bit of a VERY steep hill, followed by stairs. It was hot, it was humid, I was tired, and a thigh injury was making itself all too clearly known. :-( I huffed and I puffed, and even though it wasn’t far at all, OMG, those last few steps were a struggle! I finally made it, and took some seriously needed time to freshen up before being seated.
    • Once I deemed myself as presentable as I could make myself, I went back to the hostess, who immediately exclaimed that I must be lonely, and she would, of course, find me a seat with other people. OMG, that is the LAST thing I wanted at the moment! :-O It took an incredible effort to convince the well-intentioned hostess that I did NOT want to join anyone else. (IMO, her offer was incredibly nice, and I’m sure it took a bit of courage to commit to approaching others about letting me join them, so I give her full credit for suggesting it!)

    • Finally seated – alone – at a table that offered some glimpses of the lovely setting, the event unfolded:
    … Mario Blanco – the son of the artist, Antonio Blanco, whose work was featured in the adjacent Blanco Renaissance Museum, welcomed us and invited us to tour the property. We saw
    … magnificent birds – various macaws and others – that are rehabilitated here. And the
    … wonderful collection of the museum itself. Returning to the dining terrace, we were given a
    … demonstration of the preparation of the restaurant’s signature duck entrée and then
    … served a delicious three-course meal. :-) (Thanks, marmot, for encouraging me to pursue options for the Ubud Food Festival!)

    • After lunch, I headed to the nearby
    Camphuan Ridge Walk, and once I found the right route (despite a few initial mis-steps -- such as heading down to the streambed, from which I had to climb back up :-( ), I soon crossed a small bridge, passed an interesting temple, and was on my way.
    • Slowly climbing higher and higher, and exchanging a few words with others on the path, I passed areas where a deep valley separated the walk from buildings topping the opposite ridge, and areas where farmers were reaping crops, and lots of places where clusters of families or young people were picnicing or where couples had sought a bit of privacy. (And since I saw them, I have to guess that didn’t work too well ;-) !) Reaching the top, I found myself in
    • an area of vast rice fields, broken here and there for a row of trees or a smattering of other crops or a small spa or restaurant or a few joined shops selling paintings or handcrafted goods or souvenirs, and a yellow triangular sign (complete with appropriate illustration) warning of “downward facing dogs” in the area. ;-)
    • I eventually stopped for a very welcome, cold beer at a café by a lovely lotus pond. Then, back on the path,

    • I was stunned to find that as the day lengthened, a row of glorious volcanos emerged against the western horizon – OMG!!!
    • And there was a huge volcano – maybe two? -- on my right, too – and is one of them actually smoking?!? Wow!
    • I had already decided not to try the variant of the Camphuan Ridge Walk that takes one down that ridge into a valley to the west and then up to a different ridge, but I went WELL beyond the turn-off for that route, savoring my views of these glorious distant volcanos, with lush rice fields in the foreground and various trees and buildings and birds in between.
    • Finally turning back, I gave the other side of my neck it’s share of exercise -- I could barely keep my eyes off that horizon! I stopped for another beer at the lotus-pond café and,
    • as I was preparing to leave, watched a small flock of magnificent birds – cranes? – take off from a distant rice field with haze-muted silhouettes of that glorious line of volcanic cones and pastel skies as a backdrop. Oh my!!! I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: I am so very, very lucky to see these things! :-) :-)

    • On the way back to my hotel, I bargained successfully for a few unusual hand-crafted items and a pair of T-shirts that struck my fancy, :-) and then
    • back in my bungalow, I quickly showered and changed and went back into the heart of Ubud to
    • the Palace, where I was able to see most (not all – I was late) of a delightful and very skilled performance of legong, a traditional Balinese dance with amazingly intricate movements, glorious costumes, awesome makeup, and the wonderful sounds of a gamelan orchestra. Fabulous! :-) Although it didn’t have the staging or scale of the Ramayana Ballet at Candi Prambanan, it was similar, and I was even closer to the performers in this more intimate setting.

    • I took a long stroll through Ubud (during which I never escaped tourism) before returning to my bungalow. There,
    • I again enjoyed the pool and the awesome night sky. No trace, whatsover, of my earlier frustrations. :-)

    (to be continued…)

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    As always your report is such good reading. I'm very interested in your thoughts on Bali. I haven't been there for 30 years but often wonder about returning. Even back then I disliked Kuta/Legian where we stayed part of the time. At that stage our hotel in Legian was on the edge of the rice paddies and now is in the thick of it all. Likewise Ubud, which I liked a lot, has of course grown. We stayed at a small place on the Monkey Forest Road about a ten minute walk from the market. There was only one other small hotel and a warung on the road into town with the rest just open fields. It was a pitch black walk on the unmade road at night (thank goodness for torches) and the only noise the wonderful but very loud chorus of frogs.

    Its such a short trip from Australia but consequently gets over run with partying Aussies which is something to avoid. I stopped briefly at the "new" airport recently for a transit flight and sadly that kind of put me off. The airport, while it looked a nice building, was very dirty with peeling carpet on stairs and much that didn't work. I know its Indonesia but I had just gone through Jakarta which was much better kept and I travel a fair bit in Asia and thought it probably the dirtiest, poorly maintained of airports I've seen in a long time. A lot to do with the masses going through I'm sure.

    If I go back I intend heading for the hills and the east coast away from the masses and try to find a compromise between the good and bad of development. Lots of people just love Kuta but its not for me.

    Looking forward to more of your report.

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    Amazing! I based my entire time on Bali in Ubud and absolutely adored it. I enjoyed the character and found it charming, even with the very touristy main street. I too loved Pura Taman Saraswati. We were among those we walked up Campuan Ridge crossed the valley and wanted down the other side; it's not as scenic as the ridge itself but I enjoyed the quiet, unvisited temples along that section of the walk as well as catching glimpses of the homes in the area.

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    Garuda per the latest skytrax ratings is in the top ten worldwide. How did you finds their services albeit for a short flight?

    I am surprised that the hotel could not print out that ticket for you. Wow!

    After the long way to get to Rondji I would be starving and dehydrated as well! Glad to see they serve beer. A cold one would be most welcome at some point. Maybe two. :S-.

    Your descriptions paint such a vivid picture of what you saw its very cool. You must be in very good shape to do as much as you did. Were you an athlete or do you train regularly?


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    (Oops: crellston – sorry!)

    @ thursdaysd: I’m not exactly sure what or why, but partway through this trip, I found myself unable to climb by stepping up with my right leg. :-O The last time I felt anything like that was when I was in high school, at which time I believe I was told that I had “torn a muscle.” It was quite irritating for a while, but fortunately, it only interfered with climbing stairs – I could walk on level surfaces, or descend stairs, quite easily – thank goodness! And I could ascend stairs, but only slowly and by leading with my left leg and with some discomfort. I am VERY pleased to report that whatever it was has since vanished. :-) Thanks for asking!

    @ MaryW:
    …I envy you a visit to Bali “back in the day.” I’m glad that I got to see it now, before it changes even further. I remember a place where the Monkey Forest Road takes a 90 degrees turn just at the entrance to the Monkey Forest, and although there were lights RIGHT there, there was a space to either side of that corner where it was REALLY dark and where I felt the need for the flashlight I had with me. It was disconscerting to encounter such dark spaces, given how fully developed every other yard of the road had been, but I’m glad, for the monkeys, that they haven’t been FULLY surrounded yet….
    … More to the point, perhaps: According to my drivers in the area, the prices that hotel developers have been offering to local people for their property are high enough to create a serious incentive to sell, despite some real dllemmas, including how to balance the uncertainties of the future and the prospect of giving up a home or fields or way of life that have been part of one’s family for generations. A few of my day trips took me along the one street in Ubud that my driver said was not yet part of the tourism area, and the differences were obvious to even my untrained eyes – these were the establishments that served a local community! I had planned to walk that street on my last day, but ended up with insufficient time to do so. I wish I’d made it a higher priority….

    @ tripplaner001: Your walk down the “other” side of the Campuhan Ridge sounds lovely – sorry I missed it!

    @ jacketwatch: I thought the Garuda staff very pleasant and attentive, and remember thinking that they were extremely efficient in deliverying a round of boxed snacks and beverages to so many people in so little time. As for me, I wouldn’t say I’m in particularly good shape; I just love to walk!

    Day 22: Bali -- Ubud

    • After another pleasant breakfast, I roamed through town on my way to
    Threads of Life, a shop that sells local textiles and other hand-crafted Indonesian goods of extremely high-quality and that works with their makers – mostly women -- to promote sustainable and fair trade. It almost felt like visiting a tiny, exquisite museum, except that I could actually touch the work! :-) I didn’t buy anything that day -- my goal was to get a sense of their wares and prices to inform me as I began to consider purchases for family and friends, whether there or elsewhere. I then went to

    Ubud’s Palace, where only the entry area (including the space in which I had seen the legong) was open. There are some lovely things to admire there, IME, from huge old trees to beautifully crafted portals. Just beyond is the
    Pura Marajan Agung, a private temple for the royal family, but with an absolutely extraordinary gate that can be seen by anyone. The birds and other constituent elements, carved in 3D to either side of the main portal seemed real from any angle! I then returned to
    • The Lotus Café, where I enjoyed a beer and a pleasant conversation with my waiter while again admiring the entry to the Pura Taman Saraswati and its lotus pond. Next up:
    • The remarkable Museum Puri Lukisan. :-) With its impressive entryway, delightful gardens, and wonderful collection of Balinesian arts, it easily merits several hours, IMO. One question, though:
    • Why do Japanese tourists who realize you are trying to take a picture assume that you want them to pose, rather than to move out of the area? Hmm…

    • After a few relaxing moments at the museum’s pleasant café, I
    • returned to my hotel for a quick dip and change of clothing, and then took
    • a long walk through rice paddies to the north of my hotel. Much of that walk involved a very narrow path, so I had to step off frequently for motorcycles and scooters and bicycles.
    • Once, after stepping off and taking a few pictures, I became a bit frustrated – why was the motorcycle taking so long to pass? When I looked, I saw an extremely wide-eyed blond woman, every muscle tense, her entire attention clearly focused on the path in front of her, and a look of absolute terror on her face. Bless her heart! (Nelson – when I read your comment about trying to ride a motorcycle in SE Asia, I thought you might appreciate this particular image.)
    • I admired the rice fields and various scarecrows and occasional shops or spas or lodgings before turning back.

    • After once again freshening up (did I mention that it had been hot and humid?), I had time to
    • Stop for a beer at a little café before reaching the
    • Tourist Information Office in plenty of time for my scheduled transportation to the evening’s kecak performance at Junjungan Village. The man who greeted me seemed very surprised to see me, as did several other men he consulted. They each studied my printed information very carefully. (Thank goodness I had made sure to have it printed!) Finally,
    • only 10 minutes before the performance, in another village, was to begin, the man who seemed to be in charge said that since no one else was going, perhaps I would go by motorbike? Hmm, I said, I’ve never ridden one – would I have a helmet and goggles? Long pause. Then,
    • “we’ll get you a car.” Sure enough, a (free) taxi came soon thereafter – now only minutes before the performance was to begin. The driver, who was from Junjungan Village, assured me that the performance would not start before I got there, and indeed, it did not.

    • Once in Junjungan, my driver showed me where to look for him at the end of the performance and
    • I was given a seat in a temple’s forecourt – literally: one of the ticket takers took his chair into the area and added it to the semicircle that had been formed around a tall, central candelabra holding dozens of candles and rendering the temple entrance, which led to what seemed a steep staircase in the background, in evocatively mysterious flickers of light and shade. Wonderful! I was admiring the setting when
    • it began raining, and not just a drop or too – it was raining hard enough to force relocation to an adjacent indoor performance space. We were soon reseated and

    • the Kecak began. What fun! A version of the same story I had seen at Candi Prambanan, this performance featured
    • dozens of men arrayed in three concentric ovals around the central candelabra – men of every age from late teens through old age. They chanted, they waived their arms, they signaled their reactions to the unfolding events, they occasionally prostrated themselves, and they were, in every moment, a delight!
    • Some of the men had individual roles from time to time, a voice or two in a different tone or rhythm here and there. I found it quite surprisingly melodic for an “orchestra” of voices that otherwise seemed percusive.
    • And there were dancers, too – each of the key characters depicted by beautifully costumed and engaging and skilled entertainers.
    • I’m so glad I made this performance a part of my time in Bali! :-) (Again, my thanks to marmot for the recommendation.) And even if I saw it indoors, I also got to see the outdoor “stage” – that magnificently firelit and dramatic temple entrance.

    • Once it ended, I was met by someone who looked a lot like, but I was pretty sure was not, my original driver … but he seemed to know who I was…? My original driver’s brother, he delivered me safely, and free of charge, to the TI office in Ubud. I was only steps from
    Arang, a satay restaurant that I thoroughly enjoyed.
    • And from there, it was only a short walk back to my lodging and
    • another delightful view of the star-lit sky from the hotel’s pool. :-)

    Day 23: Bali -- Jatiluwih Rice Terraces +

    • After another nice breakfast, I met
    • Amik, who was – to my great good fortune :-) :-) :-) – my driver for most of my time in the area. A very gentle and kind man, he is also very knowledgeable about, and understandably proud of, Bali, and he proved invaluable in proposing tweaks to the itineraries that I suggested -- tweaks that maximized my experience of this delightful island. I also found him a very interesting person, and with his excellent command of English, it was easy to converse with him. He often works with the Alam Indah Group, through which you can find him; I happily and wholeheartedly recommend him. :-)

    • Our first stop of this day was Pura Taman Ayun, but as we reached the area near the temple, he noted that a ceremony / celebration was occurring!
    • A family with a compound near the temple was hosting what I was told (I think!) was the last of the ceremonies to be held for a Brahman prior to cremation. There were MANY people there, all in their very finest clothes, and there were huge piles of food and other offerings, including glorious flowers and aromatic incense.
    • Because I was wearing a sarong (just in case!), I was allowed in, but even though several people assured me that it was OK, I felt too much like an intruder to take more than a few steps into the compound. I stood near the entrance for quite a while, though, and spoke with a number of kind and gracious people who made me feel completely welcome. What a special experience! :-) :-)
    • (Having been aware that a sarong might be necessary for occasions just like this one, I had purchased a couple of Indonesian sarongs – the kind that are basically tubes – in advance so I could learn how to wear them with confidence that they wouldn’t fall off. ;-) I adored the graceful beauty of the Indonesian women I saw wearing sarongs! I did not look like them. :-( Quite in contrast, I knew I looked ridiculous in a sarong, and just hope that no one thought I wore one in mockery.)

    • It was only steps to
    • the stunning Pura Taman Ayun :-) ! I loved this temple, with its lovely lawns, park, stream, and canals, and especially its mutliple absolutely glorious meru (tall, thin, pagoda-like structures with black thatching at every level – and there can be many levels, as long as the number is odd. I believe the tallest meru I saw here had 11 levels.) Soon after leaving this beautiful temple place, Amik and I found ourselves

    • in a drenching downpour, with water falling in sheets about us, low points in the road fully flooded, hillsides and stairs looking more like waterfalls than anything else, and even a tree in the road. :-O I made it clear that I would be happy to wait the storm out on the sidelines, but Amik wanted to go on, and he was an excellent driver, so on we went, until we reached
    • a warung (basically, a little eatery) with views over the Jatiluwih Rice Terraces. As we savored coffee, I admired the gloriously voluptuous curves of these ancient rice terraces, separated by edges of taller plants. And oh my, I think those scarecrows are wearing sarongs! :-)
    • Obscured at first by the rain, the day began to clear: Steady rain turned to drizzle, and then mists and fog, and then bits of clearing here and there, and … OMG, there’s a mountain over there! No, two; no, oh my!, several! – and mountains in a different direction, too…!
    • IMO, this area is spectacularly beautiful, full of so many different shades of green and yellow and nuances of light that Monet could easily have spent ages and ages at just this one warung, and I was so very fortunate to see it in each of these different conditions from pastels barely glimpsed through the veils of mist and rain through the saturated, glistening hues the followed the rain. :-) :-) :-) I can’t imagine that I would have asked to come here on THIS day if I had known that we would end up in that torrential rain, but … wow!
    • I took a few moments to walk a few terraces, just enough to see the bamboo waterworks that serve these ancient rice fields. Unfortunately, the steps had been covered with slippery mud, so I soon went back to the top.

    • By the time I was ready to leave, it was too late for the other temple on my proposed itinerary (Pura Luhur Batukaru), so Amik proposed an alternative, the
    Pura Ulun Danu Bratan – and what a great choice that proved! A lovely temple surrounded by gorgeous flowers and with a stunning meru set just off the shoreline in a scenic moutain-edged lake, it was a perfect compliment to the other temples I planned to visit on this trip! Having nixed Tanah Lot and Pura Luhur Uluwatu because they are too heavily touristed, I didn’t expect to see any temples in, on, or near a body of water. This temple filled that gap admirably, and I am grateful to Amik for recommending it! Even large cartoon-like frogs set among the grounds and a bus-load or two of adolescents who wanted to take their pictures with me couldn’t detract from this special place. :-)

    • We had a long ride back to Ubud, but what a wonderful day! Once back at the hotel, I freshened and headed to
    Casa Luna for dinner – perfect! I savored a delicious Balinese seafood dish at a tree and vine shrouded table before
    • another quick star-studded and very refreshing dip.

    (to be continued…)

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    It's great to read about present-day Bali as I was there in Dec 1998. I think the Cafe Lotus is where I ate if that's the one that was a 5-minute walk from Han Snel Bungalows (Siti Bungalows) where I first stayed. However, due to some bungalow problems, after 2-3 nights the staff recommended that I move across the street to the royal palace and they helped me move.

    I had initially booked Han Snel Bungalow as Han Snel lived there with his wife and kids and I wanted to meet him. He was a famous, Dutch artist who moved to Bali in the 1940s and married a local woman, Siti. He had his art gallery there on the premises. So, I booked, many months in advance, to stay at his place. But, he died in 1998, and I arrived at the end of 1998. By the time I had arrived, the place had changed although his wife lived in the bungalow next to one of the ones that I was assigned. I heard that Hans was a colorful fellow and ran the place which is why a lot of guest had stayed there for many years. I was told that he had died of skin cancer.

    Bali was interesting and I was staying at the royal palace when an elderly royal person had died and the palace staff asked if I wanted to join in the funeral procession.

    Happy Travels!

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    Very much enjoying your report. I was first in Bali in the late 1980s. Ubud had gotten electricity just the year before. Obviously, things have changed a lot. I went back to Bali 10 years later and was amazed at how much Ubud had changed... the other places we visited seemed much the same.

    I remember meeting the Dutch painter (though I couldn't have told you his name) as we spent a day in Ubud visiting various painter's studios.

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    @ tripplanner001: I’m glad I helped bring back some nice memories!

    @ Guenmai: What unusual experiences! Did you join the funeral procession?

    @ Kathie: OMG, Ubud didn’t get electricity until the late 1970s?!? Wow!

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    Kja: I didn't participate in the whole funeral procedure as I think I left Bali either the day of or the day before. But, I was there when the arrangements were being done as I'd sit and chat with the staff and watch them work.

    Happy Travels!

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    @ Guenmai: That must have been fascinating!

    Day 24: Bali -- Tampaksiring, Pura Bekasih, +

    • I began with another tasty breakfast, and, when Amik arrived, we went, at his invitation, to

    his family’s compound in Bedulu -- a very old village near Ubud – where he and his wife and mother and son provided a very warm and gracious welcome and a delicious cup of coffee. Amik showed me key features of a traditional Balinese Hindu family compound – the ceremonial pavillion (for rituals associated with life and death) and living quarters and family temple, with its shrines, and kitchens and well, and he patiently explained many customs and traditions. What a treasured glimpse into local life! I am sincerely grateful to Amik for extending this honor to me. :-) :-) :-)

    • After a memorable visit, we went to
    Tampaksiring, and oh! I loved this temple for so many reasons. :-)
    … Many Hindus come to this temple to seek the healing powers of its waters, and there are pools in which gorgeous statues of women serve as fountains. Offerings of flowers, food, and incense overflowed from every available surface.
    … Elsewhere, koi swam in another pond and the burbling water of yet a third pond showed the original spring….
    … In another part of the temple, a large space in front of a shrine held a central table on which many offerings had been arrayed, and I got there just as a group of men and women come to prepare those offerings for a procession. (OMG, another stroke of incredible good fortune!) Each offering, and each of several ritual objects, was subjected to smoke from incense and sprinkles of water and blessings from priests….
    … Too, there was a pavillion in which an older woman, surrounded by priests, was making offerings, and in another pavillion, a gamelan orchestra performed.
    • What a gorgeous temple and what a privelege to witness these things! :-) :-) :-)

    • Amik then took me to a place on the rim of the ancient caldera surrounding Mt. Batur – I think it was in Kintamani -- where an overlook offered a gorgeous view over an enormous caldera, the newer Mt. Batur rising from its midst, and, in the flooor of the caldera, a crescent lake that had formed to the east…. Glorious! And not something I had on my itinerary – so again, kudos to Amik for making sure I saw this beautiful place.

    Per my proposed itinerary for the day, our next stop was Pura Bekasih, where I
    • offered a small “voluntary” contribution and was assigned a local guide. Given all the warnings I had read, a bit more detail may be in order:
    … When I arrived at the entry area, I was politely asked to provide a monetary contribution for a local guide, and I was told that most Americans offer at least 200,000 IDR per person. Armed with guidance from both Amik and marmot (via an article she sent me on my Bali thread), I
    … laid 50,000 IDR on the counter and said, politely and with a smile, that that was what I would pay.
    … After a brief silence, when the men clearly hoped that I would relent and during which I simply waited, they
    … finally accepted the money, gave me the ticket I needed, and designated a local guide to escort me. And
    … to jump ahead just a bit, as I had been forwarned, this guide asked me, at the end of the tour, whether I might give him a tip.
    … As some of you may know, I am perfectly willing to tip in accordance with local norms, but I do not like to tip in excess of local norms -- and I believe, in this case, the expectation is to NOT tip.
    … I paused, I considered, and then I said (as politely as I could) that I was a bit surprised that he asked me, but I did appreciate his services (which I did!) and so … I gave him 5,000 IDR – a pittance.
    • Having gained access to the temple, I was completely prepared to have to don full body armor to deal with touts. I’m pleased to say that I was only hassled by one – a woman selling offerings. My guide tried pulling me along, ignoring her, but she trotted along beside us, repeatedly shoving offerings in front of me, and pleading as though not aiming for a sale, but pleading for my soul (“you MUST take an offering!”). I stopped; looked her in the eye; and quietly, clearly, and very firmly said, in my limited Indonesian, “don’t want -- thank you.” To my astonishment, that worked! (I think she was astonished, too -- too astonished to continue.) ;-)

    • Pura Bekasih is an enormous complex that holds a massive step-pyramid of black stone, with a staircase in the center and brilliantly colored plants adorning each tier, topped by a stunningly tall split gate, with multiple terraces and side lanes and stairs connecting an array of gated temple areas, many with glorious meru or other stunning features.
    • Much of the complex was off-limits due to preparations for an upcoming ceremony, but my guide showed me several beautiful sections and helped me understand their purposes. There were impressive temples for the ancestors of several castes, and even a temple for non-Hindus, which I was able to enter. :-)
    • Some of my clearest recollections of Pura Bekasih had nothing to do with the temple per se:
    …There were some absolutely specatular – if hazy – views from the top of Pura Bekasih out to the distant sea. Wow!
    … There are some small carnivorous plants edging the highest level of the temple: with just a tiny touch, the leaves close up; they would easily catch an insect. Fascinating! (Part of the reason I was willing to tip the guide was that he showed me these plants. :-) ) And
    … there was a HUGE spider – it’s body seemed at least 6 inches long! – centered in a web between the entry posts of one temple. The guide said it had been there for about a month.
    • Reaching the bottom of the temple stairs, I looked back – and OMG, the steps of the pyramid look like they climb to the top of Mt. Agung (which hadn’t been visible at all when I got there), and the mists around the mountain were clearing! Just moments later, I had an absolutely breathtaking view of this mountain towering directly above Pura Behaskih’s impressively terraced pyramid. Wow! :-) :-)

    • Amik then took me to a restaurant with another stunning view of Mt. Agung and some beautifully curving rice terraces – maybe the Artha Agung Resort and Restaurant? (Sorry, I haven’t found the restaurant’s card.) We each enjoyed a refreshing beverage before
    • stopping at a coffee plantation that Amik thought I might enjoy, where a young woman walked me through a jungle-like setting with coffee and cacao and ginger and vanilla orchids and LOTs of other plants. There was also a caged civit. If I recall correctly, she said that all their civits were wild and uncaged save this one, which was too young to be allowed to roam safely. I hope so, as I’ve read some disturbing stories about the treatment of civits in coffee-producing parts of SE Asia.
    • There was also an area where a woman roasted coffee beans (they smelled divine!), and then
    • a very pleasant seating area that overlooked a vegetation-screened valley, where I was served an extraordinarily tray filled with generous tastes of various coffees and teas. I think there were 18 all together, and every one was delicious. The tour and tastes were all free; :-) one could pay extra for copy luwak, but I declined.
    • There was also a small shop, where the mangosteen tea called to me.

    • The day before, I had mentioned to Amik that I wanted to try babi guling (a local roast pork dish), so he had suggested one more stop for this day: the
    Gianyar night market, where there was an incredible array of enticing food stands. Amik told me about the various foods we were seeing as we wended our way through the many people who were enjoying the meals on offer. We took a few steps into the area where clothes and other goods were sold and then
    • ordered food and found a place to sit. We had babi guling and a delicious tofu dish that Amik wanted me to try and freshly-cooked vegetables and rice – I couldn’t finish all the delicious food! When I could eat no more, Amik bought me packages of two desserts that he thought I should try later – and OMG, they were incredible!
    • This market was another place I would never have seen had Amik not made it part of our plan – and it meant this HIS day was hours longer than contracted. His response: He wanted me to see these places. Awesome! I really need to say it again: I am so very fortunate! :-) :-) :-)
    • Soon back at my hotel, I took a quick dip, took care of my nightly chores, and then crashed. What a long and wonderful day!

    Day 25: Bali -- Goa Gajah + museums + Ubud

    • After another satisfying breakfast, I joined Amik, with whom I had planned a half-day tour. We started with
    Goa Gajah. I had read about this temple, and had decided to skip it because I didn’t think I had time to fit it in. Amik strongly recommended it, and I had learned to trust his judgement – and I am so glad I did, even if it did make for more huffing and puffing moments than might have been ideal! With a pool and statues of women serving as fountains to dispense sacred waters (similar to Tampaksiring), a cave that held some memorable artifacts and is entered through an elaborately carved rock wall, a lotus pond, an enormously towering old tree, and paths up, down, through, and around a wooded hillside – with interesting things to see at almost every bend, it was a very special place. :-)

    • Next: Bedulu's Museum Purbakala, which I had chosen to visit in lieu of a visit to Denpasar’s museum. It holds some fascinating displays of prehistoric artifacts from the area – including some unusual and, to my eye, intriguing sarcophagi. Then, on to
    • the impressive Setia Darma House of Mask and Puppets. Over the years, I’ve had the good fortune to visit two other somewhat similar collections – the Hahoe Mask Museum in Andong, South Korea, and the Field Museum in Chicago; I would hate to say which is best, as they have different strengths. Suffice it to say that I was deeply impressed by the scope and depth of THIS museum, and very, very, very glad to have been able to visit it! (Again, thanks marmot!) By the time I finished,
    • Amik and I agreed that it was too late to include the Museum Rudana in our half-day plan for this day, and that was fine with me -- after all, I’m the one who set the pace! I would FAR rather explore the things I do see with some depth than to skim them, even if that means I have to skip some things. Instead, we agreed that he would leave me off at Ubud’s

    Neka Art Museum, where I enjoyed a long, leisurely visit. I found many pieces of great interest, and was glad to be introduced to the works of Arie Smit and I Gusti Nyoman Lempad, who were featured there. I also appreciated the ways in which the museum used windows and passageways to incorporate its pleasant grounds and a gamelan percussionist into one’s visit. After a refreshing drink on the museum’s terrace, I
    • slowly made my way to the

    Tamarind Spa -- wonderful! I had a few moments at first to enjoy the lovely setting, where statuary and plants create a peaceful and welcoming entry area. Strictly for the purpose of learning how a Balinese treatment differs from a Javanese one ( ;-) ), I chose a 2-hour treatment: massage, lulur scrub, yogurt moisterizer, and finally a flower bath (with a tray of ginger tea and treat)… ooh, I could learn to love such treatments! :-) :-) With some effort, I found the wherewithal to
    • cross to my hotel, don appropriate attire, and walk to

    bridges Bali for a very, very nice dinner – one of the best of my trip. (My main course was duck in Balinese spices, but apparently, it isn’t really a Balinese dish :-( – just one inspired by the local cuisine.) It’s in a lovely setting, and the service was outstanding.
    • I finally walked back to my hotel, took a last quick dip in my starlit pool, and soon fell asleep.

    (to be continued)

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    Thank you, kja, for this lovely trip report. You write so eloquently! I'm reliving our wonderful trip to Java (we followed almost exactly the same itinerary) as well as getting lots of ideas for a return trip. I'm amazed at how much you pack in to a day!

    Interesting discussion about religion in Indonesia. One of our guides in Java was a Christian, and described some of his difficulties growing up as a member of a religious minority. He expressed optimism that Indonesians of all faiths can live together peaceably.

    We had a tout experience in Yogya - a man followed us the entire length of the shopping street. My husband turned around and asked him to stop following us; he pretended he didn't understand and continued to follow us. He didn't seem dangerous, but it was disconcerting since we didn't know what he wanted. Finally we realized he was hoping to follow us into stores and (presumably) get a commission for bringing us there! He left us once we reached the end of the shopping street.

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    You really had an exceptional stay on Bali. You driver/guide was a real gem! One of the things I love about Bali is that the culture is so accessible. The locals want visitors to experience and understand their culture.

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    Re: Besakih: Just to be clear, it doesn’t have a pyramid – it has a grand staircase climbing a hill that looked, to me, like a step pyramid.

    @ tripplanner001: Thanks again! I had heard and read so many warnings about Pura Bekasih that I almost took it off my itinerary. I’m very glad I kept in in!

    @ dgunbug: Thanks for sharing my journey! I hope you are able to visit Bali some day.

    @ gr21: Thank you for your kind words! The tout you describe would have made me decidedly uncomfortable, though I have to admit that he had a rather clever idea. ;-)

    @ Kathie: I was deeply impressed with the openness of the Balinese I encountered, and the easy way they had of sharing their culture with me. Such a delight!

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    Its so nice to have met so many locals and be invited to their homes and to meet their families.

    You handled the touts well, no doubt due to being well prepared. I have encountered similar aggressive touts before in India, especially in Pushkar. You used to have to go thru a gauntlet of them on the way to entering the Taj Mahal too but that is thankfully no longer the case.

    I have read that civics are force fed and sadly treated very poorly. How much was the kopi luwak there if you can recall. I had a cup in Bangkok for $20.00! but this was at an upscale coffee shop ala Starbucks. It was good but never again for that price. For me Jamaican Blue Mountain is better for way less the cost. I often wondered why anyone would think to make coffee from beans in that state. My son have me a book all about coffee (great guy! I love coffee!) and read that when the Dutch controlled Indonesia all resources were theirs including the coffee plantations. Locals had to buy coffee from them so they decided to brew coffee from civil droppings to avoid the cost and Viola! you get Kopi Luwak.

    So you have been to the field Museum in Chicago. I was born and raised in Chicago though we have been in the burbs now since 1979.

    Great TR and I look f/w to more. I love how you have gotten the most out of this trip and seem to appreciate everything you see. And you must have a great memory as I assume you did not take notes. :D.

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    @ jacketwatch:
    … I can’t agree more that it was incredibly nice to meet local people and be invited to share their homes and traditions. In fact, I found it utterly awesome!
    … I didn’t pay attention to the price of kopi luwak – I had decided in advance that I would not indulge until the industry as a whole can better assure the humane treatment of the civits. Just my personal stance; no judgments intended about the decisions others make. As you say, there are some very fine coffees to be enjoyed for far lower prices! :-)
    … You give my memory too much credit -- I did take notes! I’ve kept a journal on each of my trips, taking advantage of whatever free moments I have to record my experiences and thoughts. I admit that I sometimes got behind by a day or two, but I try to keep up.
    … Give my greetings to Chicago – a great city, IMO!

    Day 26: Bali -- Ubud to Bunutan

    • With a last tasty breakfast, I checked out of the Kampeong Joglo Abangan, so happy that I had stayed here despite the initial hiccups! Amik met me again, and, per prior agreement, he was with his nephew, a nice young man who spoke almost no English – I wish I had known enough Indonesian to have exchanged more than a few words! We stopped first at
    • The hotel in which I would spend my last two nights in Ubud, where I left my suitcase, taking only a small overnight bag. Next:

    • The historic core of Semarapura. After glimpsing the old Dutch-era lighthouse and a large, impressive statue, I turned to
    • the Klungkung Palace. I began with
    … a small, but interesting, museum that featured the history of the area, from prehistoric artifacts through local traditions, such as weaving ikat and harvesting salt. I then visited
    … an impressive gate to a now-gone temple.
    … I saved the jewels of this palace for last: Two pavillions, one that was once the kingdom’s supreme court, the other surrounded by a lotus pond, both holding gloriously painted ceilings. Utterly, awesomely, breathtakingly amazing! :-) :-)

    • Rejoining Amik and his nephew, we went to the local textile market, featuring extensive arrays of brilliantly colored ikat sarongs. It was a pleasure to see these textiles! Amik then took me to another place that had not been on my original itinerary:
    Tenganan, a small, traditional village where a rare textile -- a double ikat called geringsing – is made. What a fascinating place!
    • At the entrance to the village, a young man named Wayan, who would be my guide there, greeted me; he proceeded to tell me about his people and his village.
    ... The inhabitants of this village consider themselves to be aboriginal Balinese – the Bali Aga, a people who had been in Bali long before the movement of Hindus from Java to Bali. (There is some evidence linking them to India, rather than Java.)
    … To preserve their culture and lineage, marrying someone from outside of the village – which has more than 200 families (and something over 800 residents, IIRC) – would result in the person’s expulsion from the village. Wayan said it does happen, but very rarely.
    … During our walk around this lovely village, he showed me its basic layout and pointed to various important structures – three shrines and a gamelan pavillion; pavillions for single and married men and women; compound houses for core family groups…. A group of young children were playing some kind of ball (?) game near the center of the village, calling to one another and shouting with delight from time to time. :-)

    • He also showed me, and told me about, geringsing. Double ikat has religious and quasi-magical signficance within the Bali Aga culture. Making it is governed by any number of rules (e.g., it can only be woven during a full moon). The designs, handed down from mother to daughter for generations, are both beautiful and symbolic.
    • Because double ikat is an extraordinary textile that involves tying both the warp and weft threads, I knew from my advance research that – should I find it – it would come at a price. I had not asked to come to Tenganan (I didn’t think I could afford geringsing!), but I am so glad that Amik brought me here! I eventually chose two small, superb pieces. I bargained a bit – but not too hard because I didn’t question the value of the work, just my ability to accommodate the expense. ;-) And honestly, in comparison to prices I saw for other textiles in both Java and Bali, I can’t believe I was able to purchase these exquisite pieces for the price we negotiated! (In fact, I’d seen similar pieces at more than twice the price earlier that day in Semarapura.) Too, I am very glad that I met the woman who wove these pieces (Wayan’s mother) and saw the loom upon which she did so. :-)

    • Wayan practices what he called “calligraphy,” although it was nothing like any calligraphy I’d ever seen. From what I’ve learned since, I believe his craft is “palm-leaf manuscript” or “lontar”. Whatever these works are called, what they entailed were a set of narrow, hard strips of palm leaf connected to one another more-or-less like the slats in a Venetian blind, with carved bamboo at the top and bottom. Once extended, stained etchings on the set of palm leaves form an image. The level of detail required is, to my eye, extraordinary! He showed me how he does it, and even with a lighted magnifying glass, I couldn’t begin to see what he saw as he used a stylus to carve a small image. Then he rubbed it with a piece of charcoal that had been resting in water, used a cloth to wipe it dry, and there – in a sepia-like tone – was a stunningly detailed image! I was awed, and again bargained – not too hard – for one, and again not because I thought the initial price unreasable (quite in contrast, I’m sure could easily command a far higher price!), but rather because of my budgetary constraints.
    • There was one problem, though -- I didn’t have enough IDR with me! Apparently, I’m not the first person to run into that difficulty: Wayan suggested that we return to the village gate where Amik could drive me to a nearby ATM; he would follow on his motorbike. So that’s what we did!

    • Amik, his nephew, and I then settled in for a long-ish drive. There were stretches affording glimpses of mountain or sea, and other stretches edged by rice fields or forests or orchards…. Once in the Amed area, Amik stopped at an
    • overlook affording stunning views over a small harbor and the coastline and Mt. Agung towering above to the left. :-) Once I tore myself away, we headed to
    • the surprisingly close hotel where I would spend the night. Amik and I confirmed that I would see him again at 3:30 on the day of my departure, when he would meet me in Ubud to take me to the airport, and that one of his cousins would pick me up at noon the next day to take me back to Ubud, traveling a route that Amik and I had discussed.

    • After checking in at the Bali Dream House and enjoying a delicious welcoming beverage, I was led to my bungalow – another OMG-is-this-really-mine?!? bungalow: With a net-draped 4-poster bed in the middle, this room’s floor-to-ceiling wall-to-wall windows looked across “my” terrace, the hotel’s small infinity pool and some plants, and beyond, to the sea. Wow! The bungalow also had a nicely appointed “service” area (sink, counter, mini-fridge, shelves and hanging space) and a private open-air shower. :-)

    • I relaxed for a while, catching up on my journal, before heading to a place just a half-mile or so away that the hotel staff recommended for the sunset:
    • OMG, it’s the place where Amik and his nephew and I had stopped! There’s a small café there, so I ordered a beer, and as I started to pay,
    • I realized – to my horror! – that I had a total of 28K IDR with me, and they had just opened the bottle for which they charge 45K IDR -- oh no!!! :-O I explained as best I could, and an extremely kind gentleman said that, of course, I must keep at least the 8K IDR, in case needed, and that I could pay the remainder the next day. Wow!!! So I took that beer and I found a seat and
    • watched a spectacular sunset. High above the water (which was to the north – my right), I looked down on a small harbor holding a number of gently bobbing boats, including some traditional fishing vessels. Beyond, a series of steep mountain spurs reached the water, forming inlets, with hills and water alternating with each other toward the western horizon. And high above, and just to the left, was the looming silhouette of Mt. Agung. It had been glorious earlier during the day, and became ever more so as the sun began to set! Streaks of pink and grey spread across the sky behind Mt. Agung in a seemingly infinite array of alignments, all reflected in the darkening blues of the sea; a few fishing vessels moved in or out of the harbor; jewel-like lights began to emerge along the coastline. Seriously: How is it possible that I get to see such things?!?

    • I walked back to my hotel (glad that I had a small LED flashlight), took a quick dip in the pool, and had a very tasty meal delivered to my lovely terrace. How wonderful! Late that night, I
    • spent a ridiculously long time just floating in the pool, admiring the stars. And then, as I began to fall asleep, I realized
    • OMG: I’m listening to the sound of a surf! The waves here are – or at least were – nominal. But the beach is composed of rocks and pebbles, and every time the water hits them, no matter how gently, they shift. I love the sound of a surf, and especially, falling asleep to that sound. Life can be good -- VERY very good. :-) :-)

    Day 27: Bali -- Bunutan to Ubud

    • I awakened to that wonderful rote of the surf. :-)
    • Having selected this particular lodging largely because it was supposed to be just yards from a reef that I could snorkle, I soon
    • donned neck-to-ankle and shoulder-to-wrist sun-protecting swimwear and booties designed to protect feet on rocky beaches and worked with the hotel staff to find the right fit for fins and a mask.
    • Since I’d snorkeled only twice before, both times on a trip 8 years earlier – and hadn’t even been in water since then, until this trip -- I experimented in the pool first, and then – with a few deep breathes (its and adventure, right? I’ll be fine!) I went to the beach.
    • Once I got the fins on, I took just a few strokes and
    • WOW! I was snorkling over a reef, swimming with any number of gorgeous and brilliantly colored fish. OMG! How wonderful!!!
    • I didn’t spend too long out there; I did spend long enough to take in enough mental images that I trust will endure for years and years. :-) :-) Back on shore,

    • I changed clothes and ordered breakfast, which I enjoyed on my terrace. It was soon time to meet Amik’s cousin for the drive back to Ubud. Our first task was to go
    • to a nearby ATM, We then returned to the sunset overlook, where everyone seemed absolutely astonished to see me. I am so glad to have discharged my debt to the generous man who took a risk that he might never see me again! Then, per Amik’s recommendations, our first stop was the

    Palace in Amlapura. The former home of the region’s kings, built in a combination of Dutch and local styles, I was struck by this palace’s lingering signs of incredible beauty, despite the overwhelming evidence of a sad need for attention. The area included a number of buildings that now seem separate from the palace, and I often felt that I was trespassing, but Amik’s cousin had confirmed that we could roam these regions before either of us stepped outside the area immediately adjacent to the palace. There were some stunning views from mountains to sea, some lovingly arranged little gardens, and buildings with noteworthy decorations. After a long circuit, we came back to a large lotus pond and pavillion that were next to the palace.
    • Once again, this was a place that I was very happy to have seen, and that hadn’t even made it onto my radar – kudos to Amik for making it a part of my experience!

    • What had been on my radar, and was part of my request, was:
    Tirta Gangga, a set of pools and fountains and gardens – beautiful! A relatively recent creation, as I understand it (mid-1940s), it holds serene corners, beautiful fountains, and step-studded pools that can’t be visited without laughter. :-) We then began a

    • Long drive back to Ubud. Amik’s cousin spoke English well, and I enjoyed our conversation about how any number of things are similar or different in Bali and the U.S. -- marriage laws and rituals; education; military service requirements and benefits; etc. I also asked him a question that I did not ask of anyone else in Indonesia:
    • What do the Balinese think of people from the U.S.? In general, he said, they welcome Americans because we never try to bargain, no matter the asking price, and we always tip WAY more than anyone else. Sigh. That his answer confirmed my fears is, I think, why I didn’t ask anyone else.
    • After a long, scenic ride, we returned to Ubud and my new hotel:

    • the Ubud Tropical Garden. Re-united with my suitcase, I was shown to a nicely appointed second-floor room that had a balcony and a view over the hotel’s pool and, beyond, a ripe rice field. I settled in, ran a few errands, and set off, a bit later than I had hoped, for
    • a nearby temple where I had been told there might be a special ceremony. I think I just missed it – the gates were open (they were otherwise generally closed) and there were a few people who looked like they were taking care of last clean-up details and otherwise ending their day. I then
    • walked around for a while, exploring this part of Ubud. Again, it seemed that every street was lined with establishments that catered to tourists. I eventually came to

    • the Café Wayan – IMO, outstanding! A delightful setting, unbelievably delicious Indonesian and Balinese foods, excellent service. :-) From there
    • it was not a long walk back to my hotel, but a walk that included those very, very dark patches near the Monkey Forest mentioned upthread! Thank goodness I had a flashlight handy. And then
    • time for sleep.

    (to be continued)

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    Still following. I'm glad you had another full day where what you saw and did was so memorable and appreciated.

    Thank God for ATM's. Sort of cool to have modernity among all the tradition.

    My wife is from India so I have learned to bargain. :). She thinks I'm better at it than her but I think she's the real intimidator when she wants to be. :). We recently went to an Indian jewelry store for a BD gift for her and and after selecting a trinket I asked the price. The salesman checks the weight and figures the price based on the what is no doubt an inflated market price. OK I've seen this before so I say "so what is your best price." He smiled and we were able to knock it down about another 9%. It was a fun negotiation and when he found out it was a BD gift he dropped a little more. I am sure his profit was fine and more importantly we both were happy so that means we will likely come back. Pound wise and penny foolish. :S-.

    Still following!

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    @ jacketwatch: Speaking of modernity among traditions … most, if not all of my drivers, had cell phones; my guide at Tenganan stopped several times to text; ATMs and wifi seemed ubiquitous….

    @ Kathie: Oh my, yes, double ikat is quite beautiful! I treasure the piece I got for myself, and am confidant that the person to whom I will give the other piece – an artist who once worked with textiles – will treasure hers.

    Day 28: Bali -- Ubud

    • Starting my day with an omelette at a café associated with my hotel, I was surprised to find that
    • A group of four women were beginning to harvest the rice on the field outside my room! I found it fascinating to watch: They put a large, tall basket in the field and then staked four tall poles around it. Using those poles, they then partially surrounded the basket with a shield that reached far above the top of the container. The open space was just wide enough for one of them to reach in – what a clever way to minimize loss! Using hand-held scythes, women cut a handful of plants at a time, and then swept up armfuls to take to this collection point. There someone would forcefully pound them against the container through the space in the shield, and then toss the stems to the side. Later, I saw them tossing grain in large woven baskets – threshing? (I’m no farm girl!) I couldn’t stop thinking about how hard all of that must be on their backs….

    • My first stop of the day was the Agung Rai Museum of Art, aka ARMA. What a delightful place! With several interesting, and nicely curated, collections of traditional and contemporary Balinese art and an extensive array of glorious and diverse gardens (particularly in the resort area), I found much to appreciate here. :-) After a pleasant stop for a complimentary beverage in it’s café, I began another

    • long walk through Ubud. I couldn’t resist yet another stop at the Lotus Café. I loved that place! :-) And then, I returned to
    Threads of Life, the fair-trade shop I had visited soon after arriving in Ubud. My goal was to complete all of my annual purchases for family and friends, and although it was difficult – so many wonderful pieces from which to choose! -- I succeeded. It helped to have scoped that shop out in advance. Returning to
    • my hotel, I noticed that the women who had been harvesting the rice field were just leaving and only a quarter or third of the field was yet to be harvested. Wow! I took a
    • Quick dip in the pool, freshened up, and soon left for

    Mozaic Restaurant, where I had a very pleasant and tasty meal (if not quite so outstanding as some reviews suggest). When it was time to return,
    • I bargained for a taxi. The driver said 110K IDR, I said 50K IDR, he said OK. Period. That was easy! Except….
    • he apparently didn’t know where my hotel was. When I realized he was confused, I began to look, and when I thought we were near my hotel, I signaled that he could let me out. My bad: We were actually some distance away. :-( Always good to have nice constitutional after dinner, right? ;-) I finally reached the hotel.

    Day 29: Bali to Doha

    • After an inexplicable delay in obtaining breakfast – during which I watched women return to the rice field to finish their harvesting – I finally left for
    • Ubud’s Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. What a treat! I loved watching the monkeys interact with each other, whether tending their young or playing or eating or defending their territories or mating. I had a few unexpected moments:

    … While standing near a stair rail, I reached for my water bottle and … OMG, I smacked a monkey full in the face with my elbow! :-O :-O :-O I jumped and shrieked; he/she jumped and shrieked…! I kept saying “I’m sorry .. ma’af .. I’m sorry” (as though that would help) as I tried to remind myself to NOT look the monkey directly in the eyes (per the warnings on signs around the park). Fortunately, it was an adolescent, not an alpha, and we all soon returned to normal.

    … Later, three adolescents jumped onto the water bottle I was holding. OMG, they were strong! – but the park signs had also said to not give the monkeys anything plastic, so I held on to the best of my ability. They proceeded to claw through the plastic, spraying us all with water … and still I held on. And then a fourth monkey jumped onto my shoulder and began trying to remove my hairband. :-O Perpaps more in shock than anything else, that was my limit – I spun and shook my arms and let go of the water bottle and, I’m glad to say, soon found myself monkey free. :-) Except that
    … The monkeys now had my plastic bottle. :-( I watched until one assumed control, unscrewed the top, shook it out, and – finding it was empty – threw it away with a gesture that my antropomorphizing self found oddly like a disgusted shrug (all that, for nothing?!?). I was glad that the bottle landed where I could reach it, so I could dispose of it properly.

    … As all of this unfolded, a young English-speaking woman shouted to her friends that they should hold plastic things where the monkeys might reach for them, because it would be fun to watch. I could have smacked her! While I struggled to think of a constructive response, a monkey snatched something from her backpack and tossed it into a nearby and very deep ravine. I heard her scream, “I just paid 3 million IDR for that!” IME, "karma" is rarely so rapid. ;-)

    • Once back at my hotel, I found that the rice field how now been completely harvested, and the four women were gone. Awesome!
    • I finished packing, grateful that I had been able to arrange a late (2 p.m.) check-out. Carefully packing the gifts, sorting things between on-flight and checked, making sure I had what I needed for my stop in Doha, etc. -- I was just barely able to finish up by then.
    • Because Amik was to pick me up at 3:30, I thought I might have just enough time to walk a bit of the “unchanged” street in Ubud, so I headed to desk to pay…
    • and found that Amik was already there! ??? He thought that I would like the museum we had skipped on our “museum” day (and that we had skipped because I took longer than expected at every place we did visit that day … and he thought that if he got there and saw me -- and YES, he KNEW I might not be back until 3:30! – well, he thought he’d be there to make it an option. OMG!!!

    • So I paid the hotel and Amik took me to
    • the Rudana Museum. And yes, I did enjoy it, and the attached gallery and grounds, immensely. :-) What a gift!

    • After another interesting and enjoyable conversation, we arrived at Denpasar’s airport, where I bid farewell to delightful Amik. I’m so lucky to have found him!
    • I bought some “Pod” coffee (thanks, marmot, for making sure I knew which brands were Indonesian!) And so began
    • My LONG journey back to the U.S.

    • If you go by local time, I reached Doha just before midnight – about 9.5 hours after taking off. I went straight to the hotel, checked in, and then headed for
    • the spa, where I had reserved another massage. The masseuse was the same woman who had treated me at the beginning of my trip, and she remembered me – I guess she doesn’t get many “massage newbies”! ;-) I enjoyed my 30-minute massage, even though it seemed – and by my newfound standards -- was so short! And then
    • a long soak in the spa’s jacuzzi and to bed!

    Day 30: Return to the U.S.

    • I managed about 5 hours of sleep before quickly preparing to depart.
    • The flight of nearly (more than?) 15 hours was not particularly easy, at least in economy. :-( :-( :-( I’m not criticizing the service … just noting the obvious.

    • Not surprisingly, it took me a while to recover from jet lag, aching muscles, and the wear and tear of a month-long trip, but
    • I remain convinced that I am very fortunate to have seen a bit of this extraordinary part of the world – WELL worth every ache and pain!

    (to be continued with just one more post… )

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    lol, love your story about the clueless visitor suggesting to hold plastic where the monkeys could reach it. Yup, karma!

    You really had a marvelous trip. Thanks for bringing us along!

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    Sad to see the journey ending as it was so much fun to follow along with you. Your writing is always terrific and your reports are filled with a wealth of information. Looking forward to your wrap up. Thanks again.

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    Its nice to see you are getting the hang of that bargaining thing. :).

    Those monkeys can be aggressive. When we were in Jaipur I had a bag of snacks. Well the monkeys came around and bam! next thing I know one of them just ripped the bag and all thats were on the ground. Well the monkeys came out of no where to gather them and so his a goat much to their anger. One of the monkeys hissed and pulled at the goats ear but he was oblivious to all this. he just kept eating like nothing happened. A few days later another monkey walked up to me. This time I had not snacks but gave him what I did have, a Halls cough drop. He took it, put it in his mouth and scampered off. Who knows maybe he had a sore throat. :D. As for that gal who lost her H2O hopefully lesson learned. You are on their turf. :).

    Thank you for a wonderful TR. You wee able to paint such nice pictures of all your experiences so it was easy to follow and also easy to appreciate too. You have memories you will not ever forget.

    I look forward to the final installment. :).

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    @ Kathie: It was a marvelous trip, in part because I had such generous help from so many people when planning it, and also because I was following in some very well chosen footprints – thank you!

    @ dgunbug: Thank you again – I appreciate your compliments and am glad you enjoyed reading along!

    @ jacketwatch: The thing the monkey took from the idiot’s backpack was not a bottle of water, not at about $230! :-O From the size and shape, I think it was probably a (single) ikat in a plastic bag. Thanks again for your many kind words and for sharing some of your travel experiences as you read along.

    Some final thoughts on my time in Bali:

    Like my experiences in Singapore and Java, my experiences in Bali contributed to the things that made this trip as a whole, very special – but the things I’ve already mentioned were the things that contributed to the diversity of my experiences. So I’ll now turn to the things I liked best and least about my experiences in Bali per se.

    What I liked most about Bali:

    Without doubt, the gentle kindness and gracious hospitality of the Balinese …
    … the welcome I received from so many people, whether they were celebrating preparations for cremation, giving offerings for new-found health, forgiving my inability to pay for a beer, just smiling as I passed them, or waving to me as they harvested rice …
    … and the eager willingness of so many people to share Balinese culture and traditions with me … and
    … the extraordinarily good fortune I had in finding a driver as delightful, accomodating, knowledgeable, and responsive as Amik.
    … The spectacularly glorious scenery, from voluptuously curving rice terraces glimpsed in a stunning variety of lights through the shimmering silhouettes of distant volcanos against a setting sun; from the diverse and dense vegetation of a coffee plantation through the limitless waters of the sea gently lapping at a pebbled shore (while producing a wonderful sound); from still lakes, surrounded by mountains or nestled in a vast caldera, and topped by incredibly tall, white clouds, through a harbor with a volcano as backdrop and mountain spurs and inlets extending as far as I could see.
    … Museums, where I savored art and gardens and prehistoric treasures and masks and …
    … gorgeous temples with stunning meru and offering-bedecked alters … and fresh flowers behind a statue’s ear … and the many, many offerings scattered throughout the island – in front of homes and businesses and whatever.
    … The textiles, oh, such glorious textiles! And other arts and traditions – the magnificent legong, the delight of the kecak, gamelan, palm-leaf manuscripts, and SO much more!
    … The sights, smells, and tastes of the night market in Gianyar and so many other wonderful foods: delicious upscale meals … scrumptious Balinese desserts … an awesome chicken curry in pineapple … freshly prepared nasi goreng … not to mention mangosteen tea and REALLY freshly roasted coffee and SO much more!
    … Watching monkeys interact with each other and swimming with gloriously colored fish and watching a flock of magnificent birds take off against a setting sun …
    … being called “Madame” rather than “missus” (as in East Java, too).
    … Seeing a woman at Tampaksiring who was trying, so very gently, to prepare her infant son for its cold waters …
    ... and scarecrows made of sarong. :-)

    What I liked least about Bali:

    • First and foremost, the behavior of all-too-many tourists of Ubud – and I don’t mean the extent to which tourism has come to dominate that city (which is, IMO, a very thorny issue), but rather their behaviors: the imperviousness of so many tourists to the offerings that had been placed, with reverence, on sidewalks … the apparent lack of any effort by so many to learn how to say even the most basic of civilities (really, saying thank you – terima kasih! – is just not that hard!) … the all-too-frequent lack of civility with which all-too-many tourists treated the Balinese (and others!)
    • As I had seen in Java, the frightening youth of so many motorcyclists, and their failure to use helmets …
    • ... and the apparent lack (or severe limitations to the availability) of public transportation and other signs of how difficult life can be for the hardworking people of this island…
    • … and lest I forget (;-) ) the heat and humidity, OMG, the heat and humidity!!!

    And once again, none of these “liked leasts” held a candle to the “liked mosts” – not even the heat and humidity! :-)

    For me, this trip was, indeed, a wonderfully memorable treat. I am deeply grateful that I had the opportunity to travel to such an intriguing part of the world, and I know that I am a better and richer person for the experience. OK, before I use up my quota of superlatives….

    My sincere thanks to all of you who took this vicarious journey with me! While firmly committed to the freedoms of solo travel, I also treasure the opportunity to share my experiences with others. Many, many thanks to all of you who have been my travel companions as I relived these steps and who chimed in now and again to let you know you were with me -- I have greatly appreciated your expressions of interest and your kind words along the way. :-) I will miss finding your words on this thread each day when I check in. I wish you all many wondrous travel moments ahead!

    I will, of course, continue to respond to posts on this thread, and for those who come upon this thread in the future, please let me know if you found information of value in my words.

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    kja, I'll miss reading your daily installments and hearing your voice as you reflect on the wonders and absurdities of Indonesia. Couldn't you just keep going and give us daily rundowns after you're back home? :)

    Come back soon.

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    Travelling along with you has been inspirational and will probably lead me back to Bali. The willingness of the people to share their culture is undoubtedly in response to your obvious interest and understanding which I think is something they must rarely find in most tourists now. As you say, many tourists are oblivious to even the most basic civility. I think you chose very well in the areas you travelled and those you avoided.

    And glad to read the monkey scored this time. I wonder if the woman got her package back from the ravine or if the monkeys are now sporting a nice cape.

    Thanks again and I look forward to your next trip.

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    @ tripplanner001: I’m so glad you came along with me and enjoyed the journey! And I can’t wait to begin contemplating my next adventure – but oh dear, so many enticing options! :-O To me, choosing is always both exciting and dreadful.

    @ marmot: I found Indonesia filled with wonders, and certainly encountered no more absurdities there than I find at home in the U.S. -- maybe even fewer! Your paraphrase of Barbara Kingsolver’s words continues to resonate with me – such a rich country, so full of poor people…. Thank you for that poignantly apt summary, and thank you so much for all the help you gave me as I planned this trip. Every so once in a while, if you think of it, perhaps you could smile or say “terima kasih” for me to something or someone -- maybe one of the amazing heritage textiles in the region, or better yet, one of their makers. :-)

    @ MaryW: I love the idea of one of those monkeys sporting a nice cape – and hope that the forgiving creature I inadvertently struck in the face gets all the time s/he wants to flaunt it. ;-) And I also hope there are many tourists who are interested and understanding and appreciative, and who I simply didn’t see because they were off enjoying their opportunities to explore and learn about Indonesian culture, rather than roaming the shops and streets of Ubud – I need to remind myself that I wouldn’t have seen them! Enjoy your next trips to Singapore, Bali, and (of course) South Korea, where I trust you will take a moment to add my vicarious “kamsamnida” to something you think would catch my eye and make me smile.

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    Sorry to see an end to this wonderful TR. I hope you are planning another trip soon. :S-.

    You entice us to want to go to where you have been, especially Bali though we would have to do that when the weather is not so hot and humid if thats possible.

    I suppose that few are travelers that appreciate the cultures you saw like you did. I once saw a US guy really ream out a hotel clerk in IST. and man I felt bad. He did not deserve to be spoken to like that. After Mr. big mouth left I told the clerk just that. As it turned out this guy was on the same cruise as us but we never saw him on the ship. Thank God.

    Our guide in HCMC told us that at least 30 people per month are killed there in vehicular accidents and most are on motorcycles. I don't recall if they have helmet laws or of so how they are enforced. Here in Il. we don't have helmet laws for motorcyclists or at least I don't think so as it seems most don't wear them. You would think insurance companies would raise hell about this as the ultimate cost gets passed to them but I just don't get it.

    Again thanks for a great TR, one that many here made a point of following it was that good.

    Cheers, Larry. :).

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    @ jacketwatch / Larry: Thank you again for your lovely compliments and thank you for following along and sharing your thoughts and observations. I hope I’m able to take another trip soon, too! :-)

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    Thanks for another wonderful trip report. I was just double-checking your South Korea TR as I planned my time there, I'm sure many people will find this one equally useful.

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    @ sartoric: Thanks for joining me for the ride! I look forward to “our” next trip – but I now face the daunting task of deciding which of so very many appealing destinations to choose. At least narrowing down my options will give me time to replenish my annual leave bank and my actual bank. :-)

    @ thursdaysd: Thanks! I’m glad to think my reports might prove helpful to others – just as your wonderful reporting has served me, and so many others, so very well. :-)

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    Thanks for your report, especially the Singapore part, lots of good tips. We are going to Singapore for two weeks in the first quarter of 2017 and have decided to splurge and book ourselves into Raffles for a few nights, just to see what it's like to stay there. As we too find the heat and humidity a challenge, we opted for a longer stay than most here would choose, figuring we'll see one main sight per day and then relax in the hotel pool, a tea salon, or someplace else cool and/or refreshing.

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    kja, I finally managed to read your trip report, and you AND the report are truly amazing. You are gutsy and organized, and most importantly, you manage to enjoy yourself. I do have a question for you....

    I am thinking of going to Indonesia next September, and the award flights on Cathay can take me to Denpasar, Bali, as a starting point for my trip. I don't do beaches on trips, but Ubud sounds fascinating. However, were the tons of tourists there a turn off? Were there tour groups there, such as those in annoying big buses? What is it about the place that drew you there? Did the cultural performance seem authentic to you?

    Also, why not Sumatra? That may be another destination for me on my trip.

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    @ CaliforniaLady – Thanks for your compliments! But I must admit that it wasn’t at all hard to enjoy myself – there was SOOoooo much to enjoy in the places I visited! :-)

    I liked Ubud very much and am happy to recommend a visit there. As I wrote, I was ill-prepared for the number of tourists in Ubud, but mostly because of the contrast to places I had visited in Java and a few ill-founded preconceptions. But they weren’t bus-trip tourists, rather people staying in Ubud, and they weren’t inundating the place, rather just in greater numbers than I expected and a bit less aware of their surroundings, interpersonal and otherwise, than I would have liked (e.g., refusing to make space for others who share the same sidewalk, walking through offerings that Hindus had placed before their places of business, etc.) Tourists did not turn me off to Ubud; they turned me off to them. :-( Ultimately, that may be a sign that I hold unreasonable standards, rather than a legitimate criticism; I leave it to each reader to make a judgement. Ubud struck me as a place that has almost completely given itself over to tourism, but has retained an essential part of its cultural heritage, and it draws tourists – including me – because it offers some very interesting things to see and do, is a local center for arts, and has some very good restaurants and hotels and spas. (JMO, of course. And I'm sure that one-time tourists, like me, would have different impressions than people like marmot who live in the area and can comment with much greater knowledge and awareness.)

    There were several things that drew me to Bali. In no particular order: I’ve never visited a place that was predominantly Hindu, and for various reasons (safety, the time of year when I could travel, etc.), Bali seemed an option worth considering, particularly because I had a strong interest in visiting Java. And although I have no desire for beach time, I do have a strong interest in traditional arts, whether performing or otherwise, and had a long-standing interest in Balinese dance and Indonesian textiles (including ikat, Bali’s traditional textile). Once I began plotting out options for my trip for the year, the combination of Java and Bali, which I expected would – and indeed did – include some amazing contrasts, quickly rose to the top of my list. As I said at the start of this trip report, and near the start of my planning threads, “I plan my trips with an eye to maximizing the diversity of my experiences. I … enjoy art, architecture, historic ruins, museums, religious structures, parks and gardens, natural scenery, buildings of state or defense (e.g., palaces and fortresses), markets (for their atmosphere, not for shopping), picturesque villages, good food and wine, folk traditions, and the chance to see and experience other parts of the world.” Except for my interest in wine, this trip filled the bill extremely well! :-)

    I’m no expert, but the cultural performances I saw in Bali seemed authentic to me. From what I was able to learn (and I did ask this question) many young Balinese have taken a serious interest in sustaining their cultural heritage, and the venues and performances I selected were among those considered best. For example, there are different dance troops, so in addition to the information I had in advance, I sought information at the main Tourist Information office in Ubud and from hotel staff and drivers. The particular dance troop that I saw at the palace in Ubud seemed very skilled. And the kecek performance I saw in Junjungan Village was no Broadway show, but it wasn't a summer community theater effort either. It seemed to me something that the people of that village take seriously. (I think I heard that it has been performed every Friday for something like 30 years, and virtually every man in the village -- and some women, too -- take pride in it.) I definitely enjoyed it! I’m sure there are amateur, and amateurish, performances; I’m also confidant that an informed tourist can identify the better options. (BTW, the cultural performances I saw in Java spanned a wider range of competence, from the excellence of the Ramayana Ballet at Prambanan to the seemingly novice performance of the lead act at the Taman Sriwedari in Solo.)

    I would love to visit Sumatra and Sulawesi and other parts of Indonesia (and Borneo, Indonesian or otherwise, and many other places in the area), and I hope to visit them on a future trip. My planning for this particular trip grew out of a desire to see Borobudur, Prambanan, and the performing arts and textiles of Java; my interests quickly grew to include Bali. Once I fleshed out a workable itinerary for those two parts of Indonesia, I didn’t feel that I had time to do justice to any other parts of that vast country. The upside to that decision was that it left me enough time to visit Singapore in the way I wanted. :-)

    I hope these ridiculously long (sorry!) answers help you as you plan, and again, thank you for you kind words!

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    kja, I accidentally came across your TR as I was searching for alternatives to our long haul to Europe and considered Singapore Airlines (and stopover) .... and I saw you flew Qatar (as we did last month) and had a massage break in Doha, wow, what a great idea! As you know, our long hauls are just awful, we did the near 14 hours to Doha and then about 6 hours to Milan, a massage in between would have been heaven, never thought of it. (My other half said "never again" so am looking at a stopover in Koh Samui on the return leg next year.)
    Anyway, what a trip you had. As always, a fabulous write up too.

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    @ Adelaidean: A friend who has travelled to Indonesian frequently for business suggested Qatar Airways specifically because of the option to get a massage in Doha -- brilliant! :-) It was still a long, painful flight, but that definitely helped. There must be other airports with something similar...? I'm glad you enjoyed my write up!

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    Thank you, kja, for the detailed reply. I would not expect anything else from you. I notice that often post reply very late at night, and that you are on the east coast. Don't you ever sleep?

    In any case, I guess I'll spend a bit of time in Ubud since I'm landing in Bali anyway. It's all Julia Robert's fault, for her movie, for making Ubud famous. On the website Travel Fish, the title says, "Ubud, Eat Pray Traffic."

    I do enjoy dance performances quite a bit, so that should make it worth it.

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    Early Friday morning greetings from our fine home of Singapore to you, kja -- and thank you again for such an enjoyable trip report. You are a brilliant, gifted writer.

    Loved your impressions of Bali. I was fortunate to initially experience Bali as youth, travelling with my parents and siblings. Your writings brought back a rush of good memories, from earliest visits to present. Well done.

    For a potential future journey for you, will put in a slightly biased promotion of Nepal. Recently returned from trip number ~12 to Kathmandu; always a joy to reunion with some climbing Sherpas and their families. (The latest trip also entailed meetings concerning a potential hotel property that would be beneficial to the post-earthquake Nepalese economy. Hope she transpires.) Would be honoured to offer Kathmandu / Nepal dining, lodging, recreation suggestions.

    Keep up the great work, kja. All for now, as will be flying - via our Singapore Airlines, yes - later this morning to Melbourne for a wedding and a few days of meetings. (MEL also happens to be the home of the late, great "dogster", one of my all-time favourite writers and Fodorites; miss that gentleman.) Early and warm weekend wishes to you and all,


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    @ AskOksena: Thanks for your compliments, robert – I’m glad that my impressions of Bali brought back some good memories for you. I would love to visit Nepal, and when I do, I’m going to hold you to your promise of recommendations! Until then, safe travels.

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    kja - Really great report... it actually took me almost an hour just to reach Bali!! I hope it won't be as hot as you experienced (we go in November)... I tend to wimp out in high heat. I will certainly keep this bookmarked as we travel Bali for restaurant ideas, etc. Your descriptions of the various temples were also very helpful.

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    @ kawh: I'm glad you found some helpful information in my report! And I hope you realized that you didn't need to read the parts on Singapore and Java if you didn't want to -- the report is searchable, or you could have scrolled through to find the bold headers....

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    @ kawh: I'm glad you found those parts of my report interesting, even if not of immediate relevance! If you ever have the chance to spend some more time in Singapore, or to visit Java, and think you will find that there are rewards to doing so.

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    kja - thank you for this report - I haven't been on Fodor's for a long time and only remembered it was a tremendous source of information last weekend when my original plans for a cruise in that area ceased to materialize and I am now planning Singapore/Java/Bali and Bangkok for this fall. You give so much outstanding information! Thank you for always guiding me along!!!! Your TR helped me crystallize some of the things that are important to me to experience and I am, as always, very grateful!

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    @ HippyChic: I'm so glad to know that you found valuable information in this report and that it helped you crystallize some things -- and thanks for letting me know! Singapore, Java, and Bali offer a wealth of delightful opportunities, IMO. I haven't been to Bangkok yet, so maybe I'll be able to learn from you. :-)

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