Sunset at a Hindu and sunrise at a Buddhist temple

To say that the last two weeks have been a whirlwind of impressions, activities and interesting encounters would be an understatement. Every day there was something new to take in that hardly allowed me to make space for getting photos uploaded, let alone videos edited or writing blog posts to digest it all.

There was one afternoon, much needed, where I captured my thoughts on Wamena in Papua but I didn’t manage to wrap up Indonesia with the last destination – Yogyakarta and the temples we visited. I can’t believe that we’re off to another country, I absolutely loved Nepal, though more on that in future posts. Sitting on planes, thriving on 3 hour sleep, sugar and caffeine sure make a good foundation to get some brain cells on “paper”.

After Wamena, Yogyakarta (or Yogya as preferred by the locals) was a welcome and uplifting surprise. It has a bit of an independent status and staying in Kraton, the Sultan’s city, was fabulous. We loved our Airbnb and the host (Ifa ; I can highly recommend it. Staying in that area makes everything somewhat of a walking distance and there are great places to discover culturally and food-wise.

We only planned 3 days for Yogya, which for me wasn’t enough to explore, but we got the absolute highlights in there.

Getting to the centre from the airport

If you’re feeling adventurous, get the local bus. We got the 1A to Tasman Pintar, which stops opposite the post office and is right around the corner of one of the Kraton entrances/the foot of Marlioboro Street. The ticket was only IDR 3,500 per person and the ride took about 40 minutes (though I suppose traffic can impact that a little).

Rent a scooter

We hired one for 3 days and got a discount. In total it was IDR 180,000. We fuelled up for about IDR 35,000 over the three days and we drove to both main temples and one of the beaches in the south. There is a tourist area (Jalan Prawirotaman) with lots of restaurants offering western inspired food and there are a lot of scooter rental places.

Prambanan Temple

We did both temples independently as much as we could, i.e. we didn’t book any special tours or guides. Prambanan Temple is known to for great sunsets, so that’s what we did. It took us just under an hour by scooter. I suppose it helps having a I-want-to-be first-at-every-crossing driver, so it’s best to plan about an hour. There is parking on site for a fee. Not sure what happened but the people at the ticket counter gave us a huge discount when we left. Maybe it was because we were literally the last tourists to leave the grounds.

Entry is a bit steep compared to the general price-value ration in Indonesia, but also cheaper than other touristy things we’ve done on other islands before. The prices tend to change, not sure based on what, so best to check in a current leaflet or at a tourist info centre. We paid IDR 362,500 per person.

By the way, the Prambanan Temple is the whole complex. It is a collection of quite a few temples and the main one everyone is swooning over is actually called Roro temple. There are also 3 other smaller ones and the Sewu Temple was rather stunning as well.

Borobudur Temple

If the sunrise is something you want to experience standing with a few hundred of other tourists on top of the stupa of Borobudur, there is only one way to do it. Manohara hotel has monopoly over providing the experience though I have to say it was worth it. We got up at 3.20am as it’s a bit of a longer drive than to Prambanan to get there. Still, we made it in a little over an hour and arrived at 4.45am in time for our torches and badges. Note to any future travellers, check the location for entry; it’s not the one that pops up on google maps.

The ticket per person was IDR 450,000. You’ll have to bring a passport (we had copies on our phones) and you’ll get some decent snacks and drinks after you’re done doing the rounds of the temple, and also a little souvenir.

Regardless of the many tourists popping up in your photo shots, the view is absolutely stunning. Colours changed by the minute, the two mountains (volcanoes) in the distance looked majestic and the fog far below made it all look mysterious and jungle-like. It’s worth going around the upper levels to see the intricate carvings and stories being told.

Food

A typical local dish to try is godek. It’s some kind of pulled jackfruit cookies in something delicious with rice and usually duck or chicken with a black egg. If you don’t eat meat, just ask for it to be served without.

Milas Vegetarian is a bit off the beaten path but once there, a lot of happy tourist faces await you. Shouldn’t deter you, cause it is actually really nice in both the atmosphere, place and food. For us it was a nice dinner out compared to cheaper options on other evenings.

Talking about cheaper options, Avocado within Kraton is a nice little Warung type place. They have a short menu or noodles and rice, some fried vegetables and we’d like to think it was actually prepared by the Mama of the house. Very delicious.

We were lucky to have access to a kitchen, so we also cooked at home. The supermarket Super Indo is good for fresh fruit and veg and anything else you might fancy.

If you fancy having a look at photos, check out my Flickr, or have a watch of the video below I did of our time in Yogya.

Venturing to the middle of Papua

One of the things we wanted to do is see a little bit of Papua and it’s people, so we flew to Wamena. It is only accessible by plane, the road from Jayapura was given up on after a landslide several years back.

I have been pondering for the last weeks how to attempt to write this post. So far, it was my least favourite place. Though this was the place I was most excited to see mainly because it’s advertised as being able to see traditional village, the original Papuan tribes and possibly interact with them.

What I ended up experiencing, was a city with clear separations between the Papuans and the “yellow” people, Indonesians that came mainly from Java. The atmosphere was eery, it seemed every Papuan was eating betel nut, and a giant white cross comparable to a control centre is overlooking the city.

It became clear that most Papuans don’t like the situation. A situation where the other Indonesians organise the city and life for them, running businesses, making the money, and also, where tourists come to visit local villages and to meet the “real” Papuans. We, like probably many other tourists, wanted to visit a local village, but were forbidden entry by some locals. I am not sure whether that was because we were tourists or whether there was an issue with our guide. We couldn’t get a clear answer.

A bit of history, Papua used to be under Dutch rule and then annexed by Indonesia in 1969. Before that, the Dutch started a transmigration programme to move people from densely populated areas of the country to less populated areas, such as Papua and West Papua. This programme was only ended three years ago. Missionaries were also busy converting Papuans from animism or other beliefs to Christianity, and a geologist found the biggest gold mine (there’s also a load of copper) to date near Puncak Jaya, the Grasberg Mine. Naturally, it’s run by an American company you’ll have never heard of that also happens to deal with Petroleum.

You can imagine that the local, indigenous people wouldn’t be too happy about the situation and I suppose every white person coming to town wanting to visit the locals is just a reminder of their situation. If you google Papua, you’ll find that in recent news this sentiment was confirmed.

After our failed attempt to visit a traditional village, we ventured to Jiwika by hitchhiking there. A minibus of teenagers, some drunk likely escaping the Sunday rituals, dropped us off at Jiwika. It’s the hotspot for white people to see a traditional village with the locals wearing traditional outfits. Suddenly, local women surrounded us, first wearing tops, then none to resemble their past cultural lives. They have a mummy in the village to be whipped out any time a tourist comes, though we politely declined. We read about a saltwater well, Air Garam, which included a hike. The online world recommended hiring a local woman as a guide, so we did after some negotiating.

Though the video below doesn’t show it, it wasn’t the best of experiences going up to the wells and have the woman show us how they originally got salt. It was not at all about getting to know their culture, but more about the money. It was a running theme throughout our stay, at the same time, it is also a conflict and contradiction for the locals. They don’t want to be taken advantage of, but they need the money, so they “sell” their culture to a point where it feels like you need to buy air to breathe as well.

It is such a shame that the current situation is like this and I wish I had a better experience and feeling leaving Wamena. It’s infuriating and sad, really.

Waigeo – Seeing the bird of paradise and discovering underwater beauty

It’s been a while, hasn’t it. We’re now on our way to Nepal and there is still so much to share about our last few weeks in Indonesia. I haven’t written or posted anything cause, one, of non-existent or very slow internet, and two, I have been focusing on getting the videos done instead. It always takes longer than you think and as I have limited tools to get it done, it just takes more time than it usually would, if I had a laptop, unlimited storage space, internet, etc.

But here we are, on our way to Nepal, with so many thoughts and images in my head from the recent weeks. Our stay on Waigeo, to date, is still my favourite despite being at the height of a cold there. It was just dreamy. The food was amazing, the people were friendly, the sounds of exotic birds in the morning added to the jungle feeling, the beach and water was just stunning. Did I mention the food? We didn’t realise that when booking on Raja Ampat Homestay, that it was full board. It makes sense because you’re not close to anything really to quickly grab something, let alone have a kitchen available to cook yourself. Though I did get to cook on the last night with Christine, the owner, in their kitchen.

Cooking with Christine at Warimpurem Homestay

We stayed at Warimpurem Homestay, about 30 minutes drive away from Waisai, where all the boats and ferry arrive and some leave for the other islands. The airport doesn’t seem to work anymore, a local said that flights were unreliable and people ended up going by ferries in the end. It only takes 2 hours from Sorong, so it’s quite alright considering the time you’d have to wait at the airport.

Sunset at Warimpurem Homestay, Waigeo, West Papua

Back to the homestay. It was basic, clean and everything you needed. The day slows down here, starting with the sounds of birds and waves. Eventually, we strolled over to the common dining/dozing-off-on-a-hammock area where we had breakfast and pondered what we’d do next. The first day we picked up our lost luggage at the harbour on a scooter driving over bumpy roads (I think people’s bums here become conditioned at a young age. I’m afraid mine will not get used to the pain) and learning that Sundays here really are Sundays. Everything was more or less closed and we could only fuel up with an overpriced bottle from a street vendor. The second day we went on a hike early morning (read before sunrise) to see the Red Bird of Paradise, which only exists on Waigeo, and the Wilson’s Bird of Paradise. On the third day, we went snorkelling around islands nearby and I got a sunburn on me bum. On the last day we explored the local village. Our stay there honestly felt so much longer than four full days. It was the right kind of activity-relaxation-ratio considering I also tried to get over a cold.

Saporkren Village, Waigeo, West Papua

What also helped with slowing down was one of their cats, Manis. I called her Meryll, cause her meowing reminded me of one. She rendered us immobile by wanting to snuggle or sleep on our laps all the time.

Seeing real life dragons

One of the main reasons we came to Labuan Bajo was to go to the Komodo National Park and see the Komodo dragons. They only exist here and are very old as a species and seem to be gifted with the genes for survival. They can swim, but not far, which is why they only exist on the islands in the National Park. They can be fast, if they want to, have a poisonous bite (killing their prey slowly), young ones can climb trees, smell each other, trace blood from kilometres away and they just look impressive. They can’t fly however, but that might be just a matter of a few thousands of years.

We went on a combo snorkelling and trek tour to see the dragons on Rinca Island where there are the most dragons and you have the best chance of seeing them. We were lucky enough to see all age ranges, male and female, with a bit of action from one of the older male dragons wanting to claim his spot next to a female. I got it all on video and let me tell you, once you see them make even the smallest move, you’ll happily stay behind your local guide who is equipped only with a forked stick.

Not sure how effective the guide and the stick would be, if a dragon would decide to launch towards you. Overheard someone saying that there is no warning and they could be happily dozing away (or seemingly so) and start and attack.

Mating season just finished more or less and females have now hoarded loads of eggs in one hole with multiple decoy holes kindly dug by some kind of bird which used it during their hatching season before. The females eat some of their own eggs for a couple of months, so in the end, if I understood correctly, about only 10% hatch. The young ones then climb trees and eat their smaller kind, lizards for breakfast, lunch and dinner. How lovely!

Check out the video below. It has a few bits in from the days before we went to see the dragons as well.

A few days in Brighton before our big trip

Oh man, I had no idea it was going to take me this long to get the video on Brighton edited and uploaded. It always takes about 5 times longer than you think!

But I did it! Yay/applause/pat on the back and thank you to lovely husband for making lunch.

Last summer, we’ve been to Brighton for a weekend and it was a lot colder than it is now. It is currently gloriously blue and sunny outside and it’s been amazing getting to know this city a little more.

Of course we had to go back to our favourite food places, explore some new ones and got a bit of a sunburn (who would’ve thought).

It was definitely the perfect few days before jumping on a plane to Indonesia tomorrow morning. Husband called it the calm before the storm. Let’s hope that this figure of speech isn’t becoming reality after all the horror show posts of boats capsizing and all I’ve read.

On that cheery note, enjoy the video. Again, bloody pain to get that together on an iPad but totally worth it. Maybe next time I’ll figure out how to get different background music on there besides the standard 6 theme tunes available in iMovie.

Everything is in a box in a box in a box

Today we moved everything into a box.

Which means we’ve now officially switched over to camping-and-living-out-of-our-backpacks mode. I don’t think I’ve properly realised what is happening. For about a month, my focus has been to get everything organised, packed and ready to go and I am very good at compartmentalising, i.e. keeping the eye on the prize in a rational and logical way. Emotions usually hit after I’ve achieved what needed to be done.

So here I sit in our local pub, a baked camembert and a half fish and chips later (didn’t eat all day, see compartmentalising), and start to feel all the feels. It is slowly sinking in that I may not people watch from this corner of the pub anymore, or that our flat is so not cosy enough for this grey and rainy weather. (Reason why we’re in a pub and it at home).

There is still a bit of processing time left; we’re going to Brighton for a few days to switch off and prepare ourselves mentally for what’s to come next. Weather isn’t playing ball so I’ll be wearing everything I’ve packed enjoying the British sea side.

Slight tangent, “our” cat has been in and out these past days exploring boxes and rooms. I wonder, if she knows we’re leaving.