On Java and Bali in Indonesia
A lazy day at the pool in Kuta
I still don't feel much better and decide to stay at the pool today and don't rent a motorbike. If I would go to Dreamland, I couldn't go into the salty water because of the nasty cut on my left big toe, so I stay in Kuta. At 9 my phone rings and some person named Ronee wants to talk to me, well I don't know anybody with that name and nobody knows I'm here, but she knows my name? She is calling from the Peninsula resort in Nusa Dua, (the posh resort town I passed through on Monday) and is happy to inform me that I've won the first prize in a lucky draw, a 7 day stay in a 5 star hotel of my choice for up to six people. Wow! that sounds great, too great actually, so I stay calm and will only believe it when I have it on paper. I answered some questions yesterday on the street in Kuta about my holiday and also mentioned my hotel, that's how they got my name. They would like me to come over to the Peninsula hotel for a celebration with all the other winners and a car would pick me up in 30 minutes. But she also advises me that I shouldn't mention that I travel for a year, don't have a job and only pay 80,000 for my room. Here it becomes obvious that this is some sort of scam because they ask me to lie about things and that shouldn't be the case if I had really won something. As I don't have any other plans I decide to go along anyway and a bit later are on my way to Nusa Dua. The Peninsula is a decent resort hotel, one I couldn't afford on my current budget but its definitely not 5 star, it's not even in the nice part of town in the park where all the real 5 star places are. I have to fill out a form and due to my instructions from the driver and on the phone, I lie about my occupation, length of holiday and price of current accommodation to make me look more like a wealthy holiday maker than a backpacker. A bit later a small American guy shows up and explains the deal to me. I would join some sort of membership with the resort chain and would then 'own' a suite here in Bali. Whenever I want to go on holiday somewhere else in the world I could temporarily transfer the ownership to another suite in the hotel of my choice. I would only pay booking fee and a low maitanance fee while I stay at the suite. The first time I stay somewhere I would get one week for free (My first prize). Of course the membership of which there are 27 different types costs something and I would have to put some money down today (Alert, never pay for anything like this on the first day without checking the background of the company you are dealing with). To his credit, he explained all this to me clearly and before we started the two hour detailed presentation of the deal, he ask me whether I'm still interested, and at this point I wasn't any more. No free meal as promised and no prize, just a ride back to my hotel. It's interesting that there are two companies involved here, they guys at the hotel trying to sell their memberships and the people asking tourists on the streets and later call them with false promises and outright lies. I guess they get some commission for every person they bring over to the hotel and don't care about whether that person would ever sign the deal. Because otherwise they wouldn't have ask me to lie. If the American sales guys had known my real data, he wouldn't have wasted his time with me.
Back in Kuta, I have breakfast and get a haircut, 20000 rupiahs is not super cheap but it includes a wash. Also get two new holes in my belt. I do more writing at the pool. My flight tomorrow is at six a.m. and originally I had planned to go to the airport at midnight to save the money for another night in the hotel, but now I decided to stay the night here and get up early. Another sunset on the beach and hanging out at the hotel garden in the evening.
On a moped around the most southern parts of Bali
I have an okay but expensive breakfast at the waterfront and then rent a moped. Again I go for an automatic one (50,000 per day) because it's so much easier. This time I have to sign a contract and it clearly states that I need an international driver's license. Apparently the local police tries to get up to 2 million rupiahs from you if they caught you without one and try to scare your with stories about jail. I've heard this from the Belgian couple I met on the east coast, they only had to pay 50,000 in the end but again the money went right into the cops pocket and they never got a receipt. I decide to take the risk because I really want to go to some areas in the south where there is no public transport. My story would be that I've tried to get an International license from the German embassy in London and that they told me that this is not possible and not necessary to get one. And that they should call the German consulate in Sanur to confirm this, that should scare them off. I didn't need this story because I wasn't stopped all day. The first part of my ride was on a major road southbound, the left side of the road, where I'm going, is in bad condition and I hit some holes and bumps, so I drive more carefully, watching the road in front of me more than the landscape around me. The first main stop is Nusa Dua another tourist resort town according to my map; my Rough Guide doesn't even mention it. It turns out it is all 5 star resorts down here located in a huge park area with gates and guards around it. I get through the security check point and find a small spot of public beach between the private beaches of the hotels. A quite nice place but way too expensive for me. I move on into the central highlands, there are some temples around here but I'm more interested in the surfing beaches on the west coast. A some point there is a huge gate on the right side of the road leading into what seems to be a wealthy residential area, so I decide to check it out and the security guides again let me through. Someone had big plans here, there are wide roads with palm trees in the middle but there are no buildings. It seems the whole project was abandoned just after it started and they had put in some infrastructure, must be 10 or 15 years ago. I continue and eventually there is another checkpoint, the guys in uniform there ask for 3000 rupiahs as the entrance fee to the beaches. Indeed I'm going downhill for a while and the ocean can be seen not too far away. I move on and the road turns into a gravel path which makes it tricky to drive on, it's also up and down which is a challenge for an inexperienced rider like me, but I manage. Finally I reach Padang Padang, the beach is really nice and there are some warungs (small food stalls) and about 30 people on the whole stretch of coast, but the waves or breaks as the surfers call them are really fantastic here. I think I've never seen them this high, there are several surfers out there but only every fifth attempt or so results in a good surf. I guess it takes some practice and it looks much easier than it actually is. I didn't bring any swim wear, so I just sit on the beach in the shade and watch the waves and the surfers. On the way back I stop at Dreamland, which I have overseen on the way out because it is also only accessible via a small dirt trek rather than a road. Here we have even nicer beaches and small bays with rock formations between them. The waves are not as high as in Padang Padang but still great and possibly better for swimming without a board. There are many more people here and there are some basic guest houses right on beach as well. Further up the beach there are also some more expensive resorts. This is still nowhere as crowded as in Kuta because it's hard to get here and it's the best spot on the Bali coast I've seen. Again I lay in the shade of a huge rock on the beach and watch the activity in the water. Why is it that all surfers, male or female are so good looking? I move on to the south western most point of Bali, Uluwata, an important temple complex. The temple itself is just okay and has lots on monkeys running around but the views are absolute magnificent, there are 100 meter the cliffs and down at the bottom big waves are hitting against them. It's time for me to turn back, I'm a long way from home riding my Yamaha on country roads. Halfway I stop at the airport to check my AirAsia flight from Jakarta to Batam which I had problems with when booking it online and also to confirm my other flight from Bali to Jakarta with Lion Air. The AirAsia guys are telling me that my booking didn't get through and that I don't have a seat. There are some seats left but they are 590,000, nearly twice the price I paid online. I don't really have a choice because I have to leave the country on that day and doubt I can get any cheaper flight elsewhere two days before the date. It takes them ages to sell me a new ticket, useless people! I'm really mad about them but I don't show it. I go over at the Lion Air counter to confirm my flight with them, which I booked through a travel agent. First they are trying to tell me that there is no early morning flight to Jakarta on Thursday, but then find one with a stop-over in Yogya, "Let's see, Peter Hahndorf, yes but your reservation has been cancelled due to limitation". Whaaat? It turns out the travel agent didn't confirm the payment before the time limit of 12 O'Clock and I should check with my travel agent. Well, he is on the other side of the island in Candi Dasa and I paid him in cash, I even have a proper ticket. The guy now makes some phone calls and somehow manages to confirm my seat on the flight. So I booked two flights, one online and one at a travel agent, both didn't work. I think it was a great idea to come here by train from London, who knows where I would be now had I decided to fly. Back in Sanur I have expensive drinks at the nice resort next to mine, milk shake and orange juice for 34,000 rp. I had full dinner with drinks for less than that, but they have a nice restaurant with ocean view, so I treated myself.
From Ubud back to Sanur
Today I plan to leave Ubud to go back south to the beaches, but only in the afternoon because today it is the opening of the month long 2006 Ubud arts festival with a big parade, several cultural performances and three national ministers coming from Jakarta as the proud local people tell me. After breakfast I want to go out but realise my trekking sandals (which I always leave in front of my door) are not there. I look around the house and in the room but can't find them. I report this to the owner, the place is a family compound with several buildings, some of them rented out, others used by the family members. There are walls around it but I'm not sure how secure the whole place is. Any member in the large family is questioned about the shoes but nobody knows anything and we come to the conclusion that they have been stolen. It's just annoying because they were my only shoes except some bathroom slippers. Because they were 78 British pounds when I bought them last year in London I want to claim some money from my travel insurance, so I need a police report. The owner and I go to the police station on his motorbike. The cops want to see the receipt for the sandals before they can write a report, 'without receipt it is not possible'. They actually don't speak English (this being the second biggest tourist town on Bali) but they guest house owner translates for me. I'm getting a bit louder about 'nobody keeps receipts and takes them on their holidays' and 'Bali will loose even more tourists if this kind of police behaviour becomes known'. Somehow they change their minds and they are writing a report. When it's all done I thank them but they expect an administration fee for the report. I'm staying calm but forcefully tell the guest house owner that no money goes directly to the police, this is their job and they are getting paid for this work. Corruption on a small level is still corruption and I'm having none of it. Now the owner is cross with me because he thinks I should have paid them, that's how it works in his country. When we get back to the house my sandals are suddenly sitting on the porch next to mine! How did they get there? Nobody knows. The owner has the theory that the French couple from upstairs had something to do with this. They checked out right after we announced we would go to the police. I don't care but I'm very happy to have my sandals back, it would be hard to get good new ones around here. I also had an interesting time at the police station.
I watch the beginning of the big parade, many groups in colourful costumes and some theme trucks. I have chosen the tourist shuttle bus again over the bemo because it just seems easier and with 25,000 rp. to Sanur it's not very expensive. While waiting for the bus I chat with the Australian brother from last night who is flying back to Sydney while his sister is staying on Bali for a few more days. On the bus I think for about half an hour that the guy sitting in front of me could be my old friend Patrick from Hamburg, but the guy never turns around. Patrick was planning a trip to South Each Asia this summer, though not really to Bali, in the end it wasn't him but a guy who looked very similar. In Sanur I check into the same place I stayed before, everything else around here is too expensive. It's pretty empty except for some Aussie guys whom already have been here when I was here last time over a week ago. I walk around a bit and after a late lunch/early dinner. I feel tired and go to my room. I find some magazines outside and read them for the rest of the evening. 'GeoWissen - Die Zeit' is the most interesting, all about time.
Trekking in Ubud
I have scrambled eggs on toast and fruit salad for breakfast on the balcony in front of my room. Birds, dogs and the obligatory rooster woke me up around five but I stayed in bed until after 8:30. The thin blanket wasn't warm enough but I waited until the morning to use another one from the second bed. It's unusually cold in Bali. I walk towards a village and some rice fields east of the town and meet Klaudia on the way, she had just rented an old bicycle. I walk up some steps into the village but it's all still all very much part of the town, not rural enough, so I decide to go back and try somewhere else. A 22 year old local guy approaches me and tells me about a river, nice views and rice terraces. He takes me through some small paths and a hotel resort to a really nice view point which I would have never found by myself. I decide to walk along the river as he suggests but want to do it on my own. He comes along anyway because the fears I would get lost by myself, and to be honest I may have been. We hike down a bit into the valley and then walk halfway between the river and the hilltops on a small path for an hour. We see several rafts down on the river, mostly with Japanese and Korean people in them. The water is pretty calm, there are only some 'white spots', it's much slower and less dangerous than the river I've done, and yes my leg still hurts a bit.
The walk is really nice and I'm glad I've met the guy, at the end he leaves me and I give him 10,000, which is not much but buys him lunch. I did the final part of the trek on my own and then walk back to Ubud on the road. More hotels and galleries along the way. I'm very tired and try to sleep for a while but just lay on my bed, the kids are playing outside in the garden. I do more walking in town, all the way to the monkey forest at the south end. I decide to not go inside, paying to see some monkeys and a forest, I guess not. I've seen many monkeys for free on this trip. I check my email again, AirAsia wants more information about the flight I booked with them, stupid, they have all information they could ever need in my original email, but at least they responded. There are many musical performances including some dancing happening in several temples in the centre of town, but there are too many people around here for my tastes.
Dinner with Klaudia again, this time in a small place in our street. We meet an Aussie mother with her two kids and her (gayish) brother. The food is okay but the rice is cold. We have some fancy coconut thing for desert but I suddenly feel to sick and too full to eat anything.
By motorbike along the east coast of Bali
I have breakfast with Clu, the French Canadian guy and he leaves town afterwards. I finally book a ticket from Bali to Jakarta, 590,000 one way, not really cheap but I will get into Jakarta at 7:20 a.m. which gives me enough time to move on and get to Singapore on the same day. This will be on the 20th of July, the day my visa expires. I then try to book the AirAsia flight from Jakarta to Batam and as before the AirAsia web site tells me at the very end that something is wrong and that the seat I just booked is no longer available, I should call their help desk.
Last night I had asked around for motorbike rental and found one for 40,000 and even 30,000 a day but in the morning I decide to get a brand new Yamaha automatic for 50,000 rupiahs. It's a pain with the gear changing and my left leg is still not 100% anyway. I head east but the sky is grey and a cool day for the first time on Bali. The bike is nice and automatic gear shifting is so much easier, you can do all the driving with your hands. At some point it starts to rain and I stop for 10 minutes but then move on, now it really starts to rain and at my next stop I meet another Belgian couple also on a motorbike, also taking shelter from the rain. They've been on Lombok (the next island over to the east) and took a small fisher boat earlier in the morning to come here, it was pretty scary because the ocean is a bit rough today. Finally the rain stops and we head off in opposite directions. I'm a bit inland now and the landscape is nice, very green but the visibility is not good and I can see only see parts of the huge Mt. Agung. After an hour I finally arrive at the east coast where the sun is out and the sky is blue. I visit some black sand beaches and then head south but stay along the coastline on a very small road through Amed and several other small tourist and fishing villages. They are nice and hilly but pretty quiet and I don't see many people. There must be good diving and snorkelling here, judging from all the dive shops and schools along the way. There is a wreck of a Japanese warship just off the coast people dive down to but it's not visible from the beach. The villages become less and less touristy with the odd hotel every 5 km. It's up and down all the time and very curvy too. I'm glad I'm not on a bicycle, that would be very hard work. It's sunny and warm here but dark clouds are hanging over the mountains to the right inland. I wave at and greet the local population for the first time since Laos. In one place I wave with me left hand and my right hand slips, holding on to the handle which means accelerating the motorbike and I drive right into the gutter on the other side of the road cutting my right lower leg a bit in the process. Within a minute the whole village is out here to see what happened and to help me getting the bike back onto the road. Later I give a local guy a ride for 20 minutes and he is proud to ride with a foreigner and all the people in the villages we pass are cheering at us. I finally have lunch in a warung on the main road back to Candi Dasa, pretty spicey stuff, normally the food in Indonesia is fine but not so spicy. Just before getting back I stop at some hills that are full of monkeys. Back in Candi Dasa I exchange 70 US into rupiah because both the flight and my hotel have to be paid in cash and there is no ATM in the village that takes foreign cards. So much for a tourist resort! I drive around a bit more on my bike before returning home for the sunset.
White water rafting in the mountains, going overboard.
Because I didn't know the name of my hotel I wait at the big Dunkin Donuts at the corner of the main road to get picked up by the rafting trip guys. I have a totally overpriced egg croissant for 16000rp. but I watch the whole second half of the Germany vs. Portugal match, which I missed last night. Nice goals and 'we' win 3:1. The mini-bus already has two Japanese couples in it. The rafting is up near Mt. Agung in the east of Bali, with 3014 meters it is the highest peak on the island. I plan to move on from there to the east coast so I have all my stuff with me. There are 7 boats in my group almost exclusively Japanese but with one guy from Miami and an Australian woman. I end up in a raft with one of the Japanese couple from my bus and the local guide, just four of us, that's nice. We get life jackets, helmets and some basic instructions. I've never done proper white water rafting before. Back in 1993 in Australia and New Zealand I couldn't afford it. The Telaga Waja river flows pretty fast and looks great. There are some bigger drops of a few meters and it is pretty much rapids all the way for two hours. I'm sitting at the front on my own and at one point in a strong rapid I get overboard into the cold water. But the temperature is not the problem, it's the extreme strong current and all the huge rocks I bump into while being washed down the river. I manage to get in the 'safe position' on the back with legs forward, so you can try do prevent your head from hitting any rocks. After 20 meters or so there is a slighter slower part and I manage to hold on to a rock and the raft stopped as well and picks me up. My left upper leg hurts a bit but otherwise I'm fine and very lucky I guess. The rest of the two hour raft goes without incident and I'm really enjoying it even though I'm a bit more concerned about falling out again now than I was before. It's a pretty rough ride and I'm lovin it. The landscape is absolutely beautiful, lush jungle and high mountain cliffs on both sides, you can only come here on the river, there are no roads or treks around. At the end there is a nice 4 meter drop and we finish off with showers and lunch. My leg hurts more now, I must have hit it very hard against a rock. The mini-bus drops me off in the next town from where I take 3 different bemos to get to Candi Dasa, my destination for today. Still much cheaper than going all the way from Sanur by tourist shuttle bus. Candi Dasa is a small resort village on the south east coast, very quiet even though there are dozens of hotels and bungalow resorts. Apparently it was much busier before the bombings, but they tell you that everywhere on Bali. I check into the Rama bungalows, the cheapest option at 55,000 with breakfast. It's small and about 80 meters from the beach. The bathroom is in the back of the bungalow and it is outside, covered by the balcony on the second floor but with big outdoor plants against the back wall. I really like it. I have dinner in a tourist restaurant, a set menu with spring rolls, chicken curry and ice cream, way too much food. I talk to a Dutch couple at the table next to mine in German.
Long bus ride from Mt. Bromo to Bali
So Germany lost against Italy in the 118th minute, bad luck. I'm too tired to get up and do the sunrise at the crater and there don't seem to be anyone else doing it, and I don't want to go all the way by my self in the dark. After basic breakfast I pack and get a local bus down to Probolinggo from where I plan to catch another one to Bali. I have to wait for other passengers and we stop a lot on the way but the landscape down from 2200 meters high in the mountains to sea level is great. At the bus station I find an 'agency' selling tickets to Denpasar, the capital of Bali. I choose the more expensive VIP bus over the non-aircon one. Both take about 7 hours, so I should be in Bali at 7:30 in the evening local time which is one hour ahead of Java time. 10 minutes before departure time they tell me that there is no VIP bus today and that I should take the non-aircon one. I had hackled the price for the VIP one down from 125 to 100, this one is only 85 and I only manage to get it for 80, just 5 below the listed price. A lot of hackling to save 50 cents. Non-aircon means smoking on the bus is allowed, which I hate. The bus is already pretty full but I get a seat on the back row and also have to keep my backpack with me because there is no storage space for luggage below. As expected people are smoking a lot, at least I'm sitting next to the open back door and get some fresh air that way. We stop on every corner to look for passengers, this doesn't feel like an express bus at all. At Jaban we stop for a full hour and pretty much everybody else gets off. We only make slow progress and the landscape is flat and not very interesting. The sky is grey and it even rains a bit. The landscape changes and becomes hilly and there is now jungle of both sides of the road. When we reach the other side of the mountain range it's six O'clock and dark. I know the ferry takes an hour or so, so we can't be far from it. I'm wrong, hour and hour passes by as we drive through East Java, every five minutes a new bunch of guys with guitars join the bus to perform a song. Some know two cords but most of them just one, so the acoustic guitars sound pretty bad. I can play better guitar than these guys and I can not play the guitar. Their singing is equally bad and I'm escaping into my MP3s. When they come around to collect money I usually say something like 'You learn to play the guitar, and I'll pay you'. Nobody on the bus speaks English though. It's 10 when we finally arrive at the ferry port and after more delays we drive onto an old ferry. People are allowed to stay on the bus during the sail but I go upstairs to the basic seating area. I meet a mother with her young daughter and another mid-20ies woman but their English is just not good enough for a conversation.
On Bali the roads are empty and we are making good progress for the first time but it is still 2a.m. when we finally arrive in Denpasar. 12.5 hours rather than 7. There are still people at the bus station and a guy recommends a hotel nearby to me but I end up in a cab to the town centre. I see some losmen but they are all closed and I'm not feeling very tired, so I start walking around looking for a place to watch the footie. The town is pretty dead at 2:30a.m. But there is a night market full of people trading mostly food products. In a side street I find a coffee shop with a TV set and I get in and order a coffee and Nasi Prece (Rice with egg and peanut sauce) just before the France vs. Portugal game starts. I support Portugal and it seems the local guys do so too, but yet another night ends in disappointment (France won).
Dancing on the volcano
The Swedish girls went up to Mt.Bromo at 5 for the sunrise and move on to Bali right away but I was too tired and want to stay at least one day here. I still get up early, it's cold up here (2500M) and I had to use the two woollen blankets to keep reasonable warm in my room. For the first time since October I felt cold. It's warm as soon as the sun comes up though, I walk to the edge of the crater 200 meters up the road and have a great view of the small craters inside the huge one and the carpet of clouds down there. After breakfast at the hotel I start trekking, two hours up to the highest peak in the area, first on a small road, then up a tiny trek into the mountain, for times there is no visible path at all, so this route is not taken by too many people. I only see some local farmer women on the way. There faces here look more like the ones of Indians in the Andes. I guess living up high in the mountains gives you a nice tan but also many more wrinkles early in life. Even the lookout point at the top is nearly empty. There are some shops but the only tourists I see are three Asian guys and a mixed group of 7 who all came up here by car. I spend an hour up here drying my sweaty shirts and enjoying the great views in all directions. The most spectacular is the on with the 'Sea on sand' inside the huge crater with the Batok and Bromo volcanos sticking out. But here I'm high enough to also see Gunung Semera, the tallest and most active volcano in the distance. While Bromo is constantly emitting white smoke, Semera is properly erupting every 20 minutes and throwing a grey ash cloud into the sky, looks amazing. The views to the other directions are also nice with peaks and clouds all over but there are more conventional. Now I'm trying to get over to Bromo itself, which means I have to get down into the Sea Of Sand. I walk for sometime on the road leading down and then on a small path into the jungle but the slope is way to steep to get down, even on foot. I make it back to the road and catch a lift with the group I saw earlier at the top, some French tourists and some Indonesians in a mini-bus. We go a long way on the rim and the down on a small curvy road to the bottom and over the sea of sand to Mt.Bromo. There is some sort of Fort here and lots of guys with horses offering rides up the the crater rim. It all looks very Mongolian to me. Not only the landscape and the horses and also again the people with brown wrinkled faces. I walk up through the very moon-like landscape to the top, the last bit on a straight staircase with hundreds of steps. There is a strong sulphur smell and down below a white cloud in constantly blown from the inner parts. I hike all around the crater rim which takes another hour and is actually quite dangerous at times because one false step and you are down in the volcano or not much better down the steep slope on the outer side. The walls here are no good because they break away as soon as you hold on to them. Back down and all the way over the sea of sand to the village, I'm very exhausted after this long walk and don't do anything else for the rest of the day.
The number one tourist attraction around Yogyakarta (or simply Yogya) in central Java is the 8th century Buddhist temple Borobudur. For some people this is even the only thing they visit on Java. I've been two days in Yogya but haven't really done anything. I hung out with Dimas, a guy who I met at the festival in Bandung the weekend before and who runs an indie record shop located just south of the Sultan's palace. The first night he took me to a local charity gig for the earthquake victims. There was a major quake just south of the city about a month ago and even in the city itself you can see some damaged and destroyed buildings. One very impressive sight to me is Mount Merag, a volcano about 25km north because of the huge cloud of white smoke ascending from its top into the sky. I've never seen a volcano active and this one is on red alert for a major erruption which is the highest possible level. Anyway back to Borobodur, my destination for today. I didn't know about Angkor Wat in Cambodia before this trip but Borobodur the third of the three big temple sites in South East Asia (the third being Bagan in Burma) was in my vocabulary for a long time. Since summer 1990 when my friends Oliver, Beate and I visited the record label LaDiDa productions in Brighton, UK and Grant who ran the label showed us his new release, a compilation album called 'Borobodur' with a photo of the temple of the cover.
I got up early and take a bus to the Jombar bus station from where I catch another one to the little village Borobodur which is about 30km away. The bus however stops all the time to pick up or drop off people so it takes quite a while. Arriving at the small bus station in the village I am offered rides to the temple site in horse carts but decide to have some breakfast first. It turns out the site is only about 600 meters down the road and after some Ayam goreng, (fried chicken with rice) I pay my entrance fee of 11 US$. I walk with a German woman and her local friends who I met during breakfast but otherwise there are hardly any people here yet, it's 9 a.m. Borobodur is a single large structure not like Angkor or Bagan with dozens or hundreds of temples. I'm a bit disappointed because it's smaller than Angkor Wat and just slightly bigger than the big temples in Bagan, it's still a very impressive building though. There are seven levels to climb up but the best thing about the site and where it beats Angkor and Bagan are the surroundings. Beautiful hills on three sides with a palm forest leading up to them. There is a deserted hill about 10 minutes walk from the temple which in my opinion gives you the best views.
There are several school classes out on the temple, the students (in uniform) try to practice their English with the foreign visitors. I had already meet some of them yesterday in Yogya. There are all really nice 16 year olds and it's great to know that they don't want to sell you anything but just want to talk. They also ask for your address and a written advice for their life from you and of course for photographs with Peter from London. I must be on dozens of roles of film. After a while it turns into work because there are so many of them. I spend about two hours with the students and then have a late lunch in the village before taking the bus back to Yogya. This time I stay on all the way to the southern bus terminal on the other side of town and then take yet another bus back to my area. This gives me a cheap sightseeing tour of the city. In the evening I have the first pizza since Phi Phi in Thailand in April, how did I survive that long? It was a nice one but I paid 53,000 rp, much more than my usual dinner budget. Later I watch Germany vs. Argentina in a backpackers pub. Most people support Argentina but an English guy shouts for Germany because he fears the south Americans in the next round as the English opponents. After a dull first half and the Argentinian goal the game becomes much more interesting and ended with penalty shot outs, always a thriller. The commentator mentions that Germany haven't lost in penalties since the European Cup final of 1976. That's 30 years ago and I remember that match well, at least the penalties, scary.
With Mocca at a huge wedding
The band Mocca, who is the main reason why I'm in Bandung today plays at a friends wedding tonight, only a few songs but they invited me to come along to see them play. In the morning I go shopping for a tie and shoes as I only have my trekking sandals with me. Even my trekking shows which I left in Singapore wouldn't be appropriate for a wedding. I look around a bit and even though shoes are relative cheap and I find some in my size (not easy) I decide not to buy any because I will never use them again and would throw them away. So I just buy a red tie that goes along with my light blue 'going out' shirt that I bought in Beijing in September. Before paying I ask the shop assistant to tie it for me because without my instruction sheet I never manage to do it myself. I meet up with Riko, the Mocca guitar player and major indiepop influence in the band and a friend of his at the station and we take a bemo (these small van sized public mini-buses they have here) to Mocca's base camp. This is an office with attached shop selling Mocca and FFWD records (their label) merchandise. There is also a practice room in the back which is pretty nice compared with others I've seen around the world. We hang out here for the afternoon and I have nice chats with Riko and especially Arina, she singer while waiting for the other band members to arrive. Arina is very nice, I call her the South-East-Asian 'Laura Watling'. The wedding reception starts at seven and we drive over at 5:30 for the soundcheck. The place for the reception is a hall next to a mosque and it's really big. At least 20 staff are still decorating the place and three dozen others preparing the food. I meet several people of the extended Mocca family. After sound check we drive back to the base in order for the band to change into their performance outfits. Arina looks stunning, I'm not a big fan of make-up but it can make quite a difference. Back at the mosque, the hall has filled up and there is a long que of people waiting to congratulate the wedded couple and their parents and the end of the hall. They are on a stage and will spend hours up there accepting the best wishes. There must be at least 1500 if not over 2000 guests here. After meeting the bride and groom they move on to the food and there is lots of it for them to choose from. On the musical stage another band is playing light western pop songs. A guy with his own show on Indonesian TV announces Mocca. They are playing as an extended band tonight, in addition to the four core members, there are at least six others, strings and brass sections and more guitars. They only play three songs but they are all favourites of mine and I really enjoy seeing them while nobody else among the other guests cares too much. You can tell that many guests are friends or business partners of the parents (both are from rich families) but there are also many friends of the couple who are in their mid/late twenties. There is a repeating slide show of the couple with some childhood shots but also a series of photos especially taken for this occasion in some nice locations. I don't know how much all this costs, but it must be a lot. There is tons of food but this being a Muslim wedding they save on the drinks, which are normally the biggest expense at a German wedding. No alcohol here. I see several people I had meet the night before at the gig. There is no dancing or any other activity and after people finish their food they go home. We do the same and the Riko and Arina drop me off at my losman. They don't have to worry about their instruments; they have a crew to handle this for them. I was the only westerner at the wedding, which was a bit odd.
Fete de la Musiqua in Bandung
I walk around town and take a becak (cycle-rickshaws) to the venue of the festival 'Fete De La Musique 2006) (the reason why I'm here in the first place). There I meet Marin and friends, then I walk back to my losman 'By Moritz' for a shower and one more time back to the venue now that I know where it is. There are mostly young people coming in, most dressed 'alternatively'. The nice thing is that there are not only many young girls in the crowd but many of them are wearing head scarves. I guess this is perfectly normal here with 95% of the population being Muslim. In the west indiepop is still pretty much a while middle-class guy thing. I get introduced to many people mostly from bands not all of whom are playing today. The venue is a hall holding a few hundred people and it is part of the French cultural centre here in Bandung. The equivalent of the German Goethe institute which also has an office here. There are 10 bands playing and the whole thing is sponsered by dozens of small businesses, so you see advertising all around. I also meet Riko and Arina from Mocca, really nice people. After six O'clock it gets pretty crowded. I meet the guy from 'Couple' a band from Kuala Lumpur, he had emailed me before when he heard that I was coming here. We have dinner together at a good place that looks a bit expensive but actually isn't. His girlfriend and another girl are with us. My favourite bands are '1000 Tomorrow', The Fake and The Sweaters. The Adams are enjoyable as well, but people tell me they sound more mellow today and because their drummer is sick, normally they are much louder. I watch Germany beating Sweden in the bar while the last band is playing. Too many of them, but I watched at least some songs by each band. The Fake covered 'Marco Polo' by Blueboy which sounded nice. After the gig we all head over to a bar in the night-life district. It's called TFL (traffic light something) and Marin owns it, he must have got rich parents because he also owns a nice house in the hills in the more expensive part of town. The guest DJ from Jakarta plays crappy dance/rap music and I leave after 90 minutes. It was another long day and I walk about 10 minutes to my losman (guest house).