Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Java Travels

I'm writing from a steamy train looking out the window at rice field after rice field in a glowing green.  Every inch of Indonesia seems to be cultivated with something or crowded with houses and traffic filled roads.  In the last few years as the economy here has grown many people have bought motorbikes and they crowd the roads and weave in between the cars.  The roads and infrastructure can't handle it all and its made for some extra long rides for us, especially since its the holiday season and school is off so people are on the go.  On the bright side this means that we get to join them at the local sights which can be quite fun since for some reason many people ask to take photos with us like we are some exotic creature.  It feels fun to be special! Plus Indonesians have wonderful big smiles and endlessly giggle which is infectious and the inevitable response to a photo session.

Me at sunrise at Mt. Bromo
This morning we all got up at 3am to set out to climb to the top of a volcano crater and watch the sunrise.  It was fun to join tons of Indonesians at the look out point in the dark and watch the light change to suddenly see a valley with multiple volcanoes before us.  Apparently Indonesia has so many active volcanoes because it lies on the major fault line where the European and Australian plates bang up against each other.  The one we visited, Mt. Bromo, erupted with hot red lava at this time last year and damage from that including the grey ash is everywhere.

World Heritage Site: Borobudur
Other highlights of the last few days were:

*Visiting the UNESCO World Heritage site Borobudur, an old Buddhist temple, that is one Indonesia's top attractions.
*Bicycle rickshaws around Jogja.  Its like being wisked around in an armchair.  The view is fantastic.
*A bathroom with no walls that looked out into my own private garden and had a view out to a soaring volcano at an environmental center we stayed at.
*Drinking a variety of herbal concoctions that are supposed to heal all things. 
*Having pools right outside most of my hotel rooms for multiple dips each day.  Its very hot and humid here so this is for fun and for survival.
Christmas Revelry

*Christmas day where we didn't do much for the day and didn't see any decorations or acknowledgement it was the holiday till we reached our hotel at 7pm which was lit up with lights and had not one but two huge balsam trees decorated in style.  It meant even my room smelled like Christmas.  One of the people on my trip brought a bunch of Christmas treats, like cookies and chocolates, so we feasted and gave our secret santa gifts and then I brought along the Sulawesi tradition of lighting fireworks so we all lit up lots of sparkley things as a small band showed up and led us in a few carols.  Of course they only knew Jingle Bells and Silent Night so we all switched to a variety of tunes and played instruments and sang along.  It was a great Christmas treat!  (I hope your holidays we filled with surprises too.)

Our next stop is Bali where we have time to relax by the pool, walk on the beach, and get massages.  Yes, this is the life!

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