1/28/2012

Jakarta




 Blok M Square, one of Jakarta's largest shopping malls (complete with minaret) 

Our final stop in Indonesia was where most visitors begin: Jakarta. Scrambling to get all our work done before our flight back to Europe, we hit over a dozen hotels and restaurants on Jalan Jaksa before heading to Kota, the old Dutch district, and the bustling port of Sunda Kelapa. Minutes after stepping off the Trans Jakarta bus to the city center, we were again dripping with sweat, savoring our last taste of roti canaimie goreng and sate in grimy street cafes. We took an evening walk along the base of Jakarta's new-age skyline, stopping into some its giant malls and catching the last showing of Midnight in Paris at a plush new theater. After a quick train trip inland to Bogor, we caught our Air Asia flight the next night out of Indonesia.

1/23/2012

Around Bukittinggi


















We took a couple rides from Bukittinggi, one of Sumatra's most lively tourist hubs. On the first we searched for the lady Umul, locally famous for her dealings in the defecated beans known as kopi luwak, each and every bean lovingly picked from the excrement of the civet cats that hang around the plantations of Sumatra. We found her and bought some. On the second, we took most of the day to explore the dramatic Harau Valley, an idyllic stretch of rice paddies sandwiched between sheer vertical cliffs. Just as scenic was the afternoon ride back to Bukittinggi when the sun made its first showing.

1/19/2012

Padang


A late start, a couple breakdowns and more than a thousand kilometers of bumpy Sumatran roads stretched our bus ride even more than expected. After 40 hours on board, we stepped into Padang more than ready for some time at the beach. 

1/17/2012

Bandung to Lampung

Before taking off for the western tip of Java, Joanna and I took some time to wander Bandung, one of Indonesia's liveliest cities: walked the scenic Dago Trail to the north, checked out all the budget dives, tried to navigate a few of its gigantic new air-conditioned malls and went out on the old Dutch downtown to wind up at a face-searing Bon Jovi tribute show. A flood hit the west of Java just before we boarded our next bus, and we finally reached the grimy little port of Merak late in the afternoon. Crossing the Sunda to Sumatra, the view south to Krakatau was smothered in heavy clouds. 
A jolly young Justin Bieber fan drove us the 30km to Kalianda in his decked-out angkot, complete with spoiler, neon lights and a giant sub in the back thumping the likes of "Never Say Never" all the way to our dingy hotel. After a glorious visit to the beach we moved on to the regional capital, Bandar Lampung, where we soon became official guests of the governor. Although our business in town was finished the night we arrived, we were convinced to hang around another day to check out the swamps of Way Kambas National Park, home to a slew of endangered Sumatran species, among them elephants, rhinos and tigers. We did get to spot one of these groups, largely thanks to the chains clamped around their legs. Back in Bandar Lampung, we waited until late for our next bus to arrive. The trip to Padang, assuming the Sumatran roads were all clear our bus was in decent repair, would take just 24 hours. 








1/11/2012

Borobudur








From an afternoon as a celebrity at Java's world-famous Buddhist complex, where it seemed more photos were taken of myself than of the temple.