There? ever happened to feel at home in a place that in reality? is more? 10.000 km from your street address? To wake up in the morning, pull the blackout curtain and exclaim: "Wow, I'm here! I still don't believe it!". To me ? success in Indonesia. Not that my other trips have been disappointing (indeed!) But to Indonesia? different state.
Indonesia? special and magical.
Indonesia? living outdoors, dining sitting on the floor on a mat in the town square.
Indonesia? walking barefoot, without anyone saying: "Put on your slippers!".
Indonesia? the beauty of a greeting to a stranger.
Indonesia? a set of realities different who live in respect for others.
Indonesia? the speed? driving, traffic and moped rides by driving on the left.
Indonesia? eat fresh grilled fish on the beach of a desert island.
Indonesia? climb a volcano to hear the sound of lava coming from the center of the earth.
Indonesia? the silence of the rice fields, the peace of body and soul.
I still haven't been able to figure out what bewitched me, but? something happened inside me. A love at first sight that was born looking at photos on the internet. The places, even the most? famous are simple, life there? ? simple! Walking down the street people greet you and stop you to ask who you are, where you come from, what you do in life, if you like football and if they can take a picture with you, children seeing you from afar shout: "Halo!" (Hello!). The Indonesian people? very hospitable and goes out of her way to welcome you and make you feel at home.
In the diary I tell about my twenty days spent with Alberto, my boyfriend, discovering Java and Bali.
We left Milan Malpensa and after an 18-hour journey with a stopover in Doha we landed in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta. After completing the customs procedures, we changed terminals to take the flight of a local company that would take us in about an hour and 15 minutes to Jogjakarta. Travel ? it was fast, but in the meantime many curious eyes spied on us. We were the only foreigners waiting for a local flight. Arriving at Jogjakarta airport we took a taxi which brought us to the hotel. The airport is approximately 30 minutes drive from the city center. After a 25 hour drive we were very tired and spent the afternoon relaxing by the pool and dined at the hotel restaurant with excellent noodles.
Driving in Indonesia does not? not easy at all. Although driving is on the left, the difficulty? greater ? traffic date. Both in the city center? what out of the traffic? chaotic, messy and the road rules are not always respected. For this reason we have decided to rent a car with driver for the stretches where we had foreseen the use of the car.
We dedicated the day to visiting the ancient temples. The first temple? was the majestic Candi Borobudur, built in 800 AD
It is a Mahāyāna Buddhist monument, whose beauty leaves you speechless. The site ? the pi? far from the center of Jogjakarta, is 50 minutes by car and? It can also be reached by public bus. After spending a couple of hours admiring the immense beauty of Borobudur, we went to the nearest temples. neighbors Candi Pawon and Candi Mendut. In the early afternoon we reached Candi Prambanan, a beautiful Hindu temple dating back to the th century. In the Candi Prambanan park there are other temples, some destroyed due to earthquakes and others under reconstruction. Candi Sewu? one of these and despite being partially destroyed there I found it very fascinating, since? its architecture conceals a veil of mystery. The outskirts of Jogjakarta? dotted with many other Hindu and Buddhist temples, among these we chose to visit Candi Plaosan. Did we end this day spent like this? quickly admiring the sunset from the Ratu Boko hill, a UNESCO heritage site.
The third day we dedicated entirely to the discovery of Jogjkarta. We started with a visit to the sultan's palace: the Kraton. It? different from the typical royal palaces, since? develops on a single level and? a set of many small open spaces, so as to enclose only the rooms and private spaces in buildings. The architecture of this building? such since Indonesians live most of the day outdoors. After the visit we went to Tamansari, the ancient palace of the sultan also known as Water Castle for its large swimming pools. Jogjkarta has two large squares and one of them, Alun Alun Kidul has two large Banyan trees. Tradition has it that the one who manages to pass through the trees with a blindfold becomes a lucky person. We have tried! Did I have any difficulties? to orient me, while Alberto passed the test in record time!
The urban fabric of Jogjakarta? full of buildings that hide suggestive places such as the Sumur Gumuling, an ancient mosque with a circular body and a staircase with crossed ramps. Jogjakarta not? known only for Buddhist and Hindu temples, but also for craftsmanship. IS? It is possible to find artisans intent on creating puppets, fine batik fabrics and silver jewelry. Our guide took us to the silver jewelry factory where a guy showed us the whole production process. After that? we thought of going to the De Mata Trick Eye Museum, an exhibition of photographic posters in which positioning oneself in specific positions? It is possible to take three-dimensional photos, identifying with the scene. Visit ? it was a blast!
To end the day we went back to Alun Alun Kidul, an evening meeting place for the inhabitants of Jogjakarta. Here? You can dine sitting on the floor on simple mats and then take a ride on one of the themed rickshaws decorated with different neon lights, complete with built-in music. Really funny!
Back from the evening at Alun Alun Kidul we waited at the reception for a few hours for the bus that would take us to the port of Jepara, actually? at 23:30? a minivan arrived and took us to a gas station where the bus to Jepara was waiting for us. Travel ? lasted 4 hours. When we arrived in Jepara we waited about 6 hours in a warung, a typical local restaurant, for the fast ship to depart. IS? it was a very difficult night, it was very cold due to the wind coming from the sea, but we tried to rest the most? possible on some wooden benches. Traveling not? always simple, but remember? forever with a smile this crazy night and my impossible onion outfit.
At 10:00 we left the port with the fast ship and in 2 hours we reached the port of Karimunjawa an island which is about 70 km from the coast of Java, it? the "P? large of the marine national park consisting of an archipelago of 27 small paradisiacal islands. Due to the strong tiredness we rented the moped and did a little ride? pi? short than we anticipated, exploring only the village and the southwestern part of the island.
The fifth day was dedicated to island hopping between the islets located east of the archipelago, during which Rayan, our local guide, accompanied us in the exploration of magnificent seabeds. The day ? spent in total relaxation, swimming and eating fresh grilled fish on Pulau Cilik. In the afternoon, after an hour of snorkeling, we visited Gosong Sloka, a small island of sand only, less than 3m long and wide dispersed in the Java Sea. Before returning to the port we visited a tank of captive sharks, many tourists, mostly? Indonesians, they went in to be photographed with the sharks, but we preferred not to enter. We have given up for fear (on the other hand, even if in captivity, they remain aggressive animals) and above all why? don't we love to see animals in captivity? and we believe it is right to let them live free in their natural habitat.
On the sixth day we explored, again with Rayan, the seabed and the islands of the west coast. A true earthly paradise! For lunch we still ate some fresh grilled fish on Pulau Geleang. We ended the day admiring from Tanjung Gelam beach and from the boat the sun painting the sky red and then hiding in the warm waters of the sea.
We have dedicated this day to exploring Karimunjawa. We climbed the Joko Tuwo hill from which you can? admire a breathtaking view and on which a whale skeleton is preserved. Afterwards, we returned to the beautiful Bukit Love (love hill) and wandered through the village streets. In the morning we wanted to go to the Mangrove forest, but after a few kilometers the asphalt was very damaged and going around on a motorbike without a helmet we preferred not to risk and go back. Don't think badly! Nobody in Karimunjawa wears a helmet and when we asked they were blown away. Nobody wears it why? on the island is not there? the police and even young children own a moped.
At 11:00 we left the port of Karimunjawa and in about 2 hours we returned to Jepara. Once we arrived at the port, a driver was waiting for us to take us to Surabaya. IS? It was a very long and tiring day and, despite the journey being 300 km, it took us 8 hours to reach our destination, in fact there are no motorways in Indonesia. IS? It is possible to reach Surabaya also by plane or by train, starting from Semarang, but we have not chosen one of these means. would we have arrived more? late since? these vehicles would leave in the late afternoon. Surabaya? a big city? modern, the second largest after the capital Jakarta.
At 10:00 in the morning we met our guide Nanang and the driver Irfan who accompanied us for the next three days. Together with them, leaving Surabaya, we reached Mount Bromo, an explosive volcano. IS? it was a pleasant trip spent discussing the differences between Italian and Indonesian customs. Thanks to them we have discovered many curiosities? in Indonesia for example, every Indonesian family has at least three mopeds (for the father, for the mother and one for the children) and they rarely own a car. Arriving at Mount Bromo we bought a hat, scarf, gloves, wool socks and rented a windbreaker, it was very cold and in three hours we were catapulted into the middle of winter, passing from 37 to 10 degrees.
At 3:30 we left by jeep to admire the sunrise from the King Kong hill. Unfortunately that day there was a lot of fog, but we still managed to see the starry sky give way to the sun and? it was a priceless emotion. After dawn, still by jeep, we went to the foot of the volcano and after about an hour of walking we arrived at the mouth of the crater. The walk? been more? lasts than expected why? last December (2015) the volcano erupted and the ashes covered the path and the whole steep staircase. It was a real climb! For Hindu believers, the Bromo volcano? very important for its sacredness? and every year they bring floral offerings to the volcano and then throw them into the crater. The emotion more? big of the excursion? was hearing the loud noise of boiling lava coming from the center of the Earth.
Back at the hotel we had breakfast and then in about 6 hours we reached Banyuwangi.
The next morning Nanang accompanied us to the twin waterfalls near Banyuwangi and to a small town specializing in the production of coffee. Luwak. IS? it was a beautiful morning! Before taking the ship to Bali we spent some time in a warung talking and sipping that great coffee. with Nanag and Irfan. I don't usually drink coffee, but I found the Luwak, of quality. 100% Arabica, truly excellent. Unlike the Italian one, the coffee? Indonesian? pi? long and its taste more? delicate. At around 12:00 the ship left the port of Banyuwangi to reach the port of Gilimanuk, located on the highest point. western Bali. The crossing, which lasted about an hour,? was very pleasant, we chatted with Nanang and with a lady curious to know us, this one? just one of the things I love about my travels: spending time with the locals. Once in Bali we greeted our friends Nanang and Irfan with the promise to meet again, perhaps in Italy and to host them at our home.
After a 4-hour drive we reached Ubud, the cultural center of the island of Bali, where we have chosen to stay. The only feature that unites Bali to Java? the traffic and the way of driving, the rest of the two islands are very different, already? on the way to Ubud we noticed that houses, streets and customs were different.
The territory of Bali has no railways and? covered only by a small bus network, the means more? comfortable to turn are therefore cars and scooters. As for Java we decided to rent a car with driver for 5 days since? the traffic was, as expected, very intense and at times dangerous. The first day in Bali we visited the Pura Luhur Batukaru temple, known by the Balinese as the temple of the mountains due to its location. The first contact with the Hindu religion? special state, entering the temple the scent of incense guided us to the prayer point, a muffled environment of silence and peace, whose only sound were the prayer bells. To go to the temple the Balinese wear the sarong, a long skirt in bright colors, the women also wear beautiful colored shirts in a fabric similar to lace. Believers bring floral offerings to the temple that they make up at home and during prayer they place them on the floor and then incense them. During the moment of prayer, believers pray on their knees on the floor, placing their hands together on their foreheads and bending down at intervals, the women remove the petals one by one from their floral hairstyle, alternating the gesture with prayer.
After the visit to the temple we went to the Jatiluwih rice fields, a UNESCO heritage site, the panorama of the entire valley? breathtaking, its feature? that the land is still plowed with cart and oxen. Finally, the day yes? ended with a visit to the Pura Ulun Danu Bratan temple, which disappointed us since? it has lost its identity, becoming a tourist place complete with shops and a playground at the entrance. In fact, Bali suffers from not responsible tourism and in some areas it is losing traditions to make way for places characterized by a westernized profile.
Second day in Bali? Was it really special, one of those days I won't forget? never. We woke up very early to avoid the traffic of the center of Ubud and immediately go to the Tengalalang rice fields not far from the city, these do not offer a breathtaking view, but I found them very beautiful anyway. The second visit? been to the Gunung Kawi Sebatu temple, which we came to by chance, but? it was still very nice and I recommend it. You may be wondering: How do you see a place by mistake? Here opens a sore point of our five days of visits to Bali. The driver who drove the car did not know any place in Bali, not even the nearest ones. touristic and we, not knowing of the existence of two places with the similar name, we trusted. We asked him to take us to Gunug Kawi, a place where? possible to see the ancient royal tombs while he took us? at Gunung Kawi Sebatu. As if this were not enough, the guide said that to reach the royal tombs you had to go down a staircase of 300 steps and l? we saw one, but it was closed! We tried to ask for information, but the only lady who was in the temple didn't speak English, so? we thought the site could not be visited and went back to the parking lot. We only discovered a few days after returning to Italy that in reality? we were in the wrong place. After visiting the Gunung Kawi Sebatu we went to the Pura Tirta Empul temple and finished the visit we reached Penglipuran, a small town that still has typical Balinese buildings. Here we met some children who just came out of school who seeing us started filling us with questions. Despite their young age? they spoke very good english. The first question they asked me? was: "What's your name?", I answered "Laura" and all of them in a chorus of admiration exclaimed softly: "Laula!". So cute! We spent a good quarter of an hour talking about our passions, each of them told me if they liked to dance, sing, swim, read, write and I told them something about me and my passion for dance. Before saying goodbye they asked me to take a picture with them and read them a story. The fairy tale told of a mermaid who wanted to be a dancer.
After Penglipuran we went through a beautiful bamboo forest. and reached the temple pi? important to the Balinese, the Pura Besakih. To enter the temple you have to be very fast and not stop because? along the road that leads from the parking lot to the entrance there are many people who try very insistently to approach tourists by telling falsehoods. to get money. The temple ? beautiful and the entrance has a high staircase adorned with flowers, but even in the streets of the temple there are many people, including small children of a few years who try to approach people to sell anything.
We ended the day by visiting Ubud Palace and Taman Saraswati, also known as the orchid garden.
We started the day by visiting Ubud's Mokey Forest, an ecological oasis where monkeys live in freedom. The place ? beautiful, but you need to pay attention to the monkeys since? they steal, probably out of curiosity, any type of object, so? we got closer but not so? enough to disturb them. We continued with a long journey to reach the Pura Uluwatu temple. The view from the cliff leaves you speechless, but along the scenic walk you need to pay close attention to the monkeys who turn nasty due to the nuisance caused by tourists. After the temple we visited two beaches: Blue Point Beach, very popular with surfers and Padang Padang Beach, where some scenes of the film? Eat Pray Love? Were shot. We ended the evening in the streets of Kuta.
The day ? started with a visit to the Kertha Gosa palace, also known by the name Taman Gili. The palace ? very nice and in my opinion one of the must see in Bali. We then reached the Pura Goa Lawah temple, or the temple of bats. You may be wondering: Why? about bats ?? Why? c ?? a cave populated by an? infinity? of bats, what? possible to see up close, but the smell? unpleasant. We continued on to Tirta Gangga, an ancient palace famous for its water gardens. The site ? very beautiful and we enjoyed walking on the stone blocks that made a path in the fountain. Finally we returned to Ubud to visit the Goa Gajah temple and the engravings of Yeh Pulu, a rural village near Ubud.
The fifth day to visit Bali? started early, in the early morning we went to the village of Batubulan, where a well-known theater company stages the Barong dance every day. The show lasts an? Hour,? divided into seven acts and shows the most? important in the struggle between good, barong, and evil, a widow named Rangda. In the early afternoon we reached the Tanah Lot and finally the Pura Taman Ayun temple.
The seventeenth day we have dedicated it to the activity? of Batik. By 10:00 in the morning we reached a man who has been painting fabrics with this technique for years. In 5 hours he taught us the whole procedure and I made my first batik on a 60x40 cm canvas. Since I didn't have much time, I chose a very simple subject: a small blue elephant decorated with squares and colored flowers, as a background I painted a sunset. Back at the hotel in the afternoon we relaxed by the pool admiring the splendid green rice fields.
This day ? was of total relaxation. We spent the morning walking among the green rice fields near the hotel. In my opinion these are the most? beautiful that we have seen, why? ? It is possible to meet the farmers and admire them during their work. Also, there is no? noise and? possible to walk in peace and relaxation. We then reached the center of Ubud to have lunch and buy some gifts to take home. In the afternoon we relaxed in the hotel first having a full and excellent traditional Balinese massage and finally swimming in the pool.
The nineteenth day was that of greetings in Ubud, we knew that sooner or later we would have to leave Bali. With nostalgia and with eyes still full of that unique bright green of those magnificent rice fields, we reached the Bali airport. At 13:00 we left for Jakarta, the city? from which everything? began, rewinding, with a tear in my eyes, our entire journey. Looking out the window, all the images of the journey, of this great dream come true, flashed through my mind: the magnificent temples of Jogjakarta, the men driving the becak, the joy in the greetings of the children shouting Halo !, the clear sea and the paradisiacal beaches of Karimunjawa, the Bromo volcano and its loud noise, the green rice fields, the temples, the faithful, everything mixed into a single vortex, as if in front of me there was a cyclone that from its eye was collecting our 19 days in Indonesia.
We were unable to visit Jakarta why? it was raining a lot, but from the first impression it left us there? liked it, we found it very gray, full of concrete buildings and skyscrapers.
The following morning, the alarm clock, which rang at 4:45, announced that it was time to go home, but the desire was missing so? we said goodbye to Indonesia with a simple "Selamat Tinggal" which in Indonesian means goodbye and promising that sooner or later we would return.