A Travellerspoint blog

Indonesia

Catching the Surf in Bali & Wandering the Temples in Angkor


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Bali is a surprisingly large island with a lot to see and do. We decided to set ourselves up in the main beach town of Kuta first in order to get in some beach time and take a surfing lesson or two. Bali is a legendary surfing destination and Kuta in particular is a good place for beginners. On our first few days the beach time was severely limited by one ominous black cloud after another – it is unfortunately the rainy season on Bali. So in between downpours, we also checked out the town, enjoyed some local food, and even found a Cold Stone (we hadn’t seen one since leaving the States). I’m not sure if it was exciting or sad, but at some level you expect a place like Bali to be secluded and non-western, yet clearly visible from the beach are the ubiquitous gold arches. Most of the tourist population here is Australian, but I guess that is to be expected since Australia is as close to Bali as the United States is to the Caribbean.
IMG_1917.jpgSunset on our ferry crossing to Bali
IMG_1930.jpgA funky little street in Kuta Beach
IMG_1932.jpgThese cute kids put on a show for us in honor of their religious festival

After watching a few surfers from the beach, we decided to give it a try. It is definitely harder than it looks. We took two, really fun lessons through Odyssey Surf School. They gave us the most enormous, idiot-proof surf boards possible in order to increase our chances of standing. We learned some techniques on the beach first and then headed out to the water to give it a shot – experience is the best of teachers. After our two lessons, I now know why surfers are in such good shape – it is exhausting to paddle back out after each wave! All in all I think we did pretty well – I was excited – I stood on my very first wave! It took Jeff a few tries to get the hang of it, but he was standing by the end as well. We took some video of each other surfing, click here for the highlight video and here for the blooper video (it gives me a good laugh).
Jeff's Blooper Video
A Minor Victory

IMG_1966a.jpgGetting ready to hit the surf!
IMG_2014.jpgJeff with our enormous surf boards
IMG_2041.jpgThough not graceful- standing!

After three nights in Kuta, we moved on to a different beach, Jimbaran, in order to try and see what a more secluded Bali was like. Sadly, it was very disappointing – I have never seen so much trash on a beach in my life and it actually left us feeling just plain down. Locals said that during the rainy seasons, the frequent rains flush out the rivers on Bali and that the winds carry trash east from Java. Jimbaran was described in our guide book and online as one of Bali’s top beaches, but apparently all of the reviewers visited in the dry season. Thankfully, our little resort near the Jimbaran beach was very nice and had the “Bali” ambiance we were looking for – the sound of running water from fountains, lush landscaping, a turquoise pool with swim up bar, etc. – it was really peaceful!
IMG_1973.jpgReally, the trash was depressing
IMG_1987.jpgAt the resort
IMG_2011.jpgWe were able to catch some Balinese traditional dancing one night at dinner

After five days on Bali, we flew to Siem Reap, Cambodia via Singapore (fast becoming my favorite Asian city – clean, well air-conditioned, lots of malls). Siem Reap is the town that supports the “8th wonder of the world”, Angkor Wat. The town was a sleepy little place until the 1960s when Angkor Wat first became a huge tourist draw. The Temples of Angkor are coincidentally not just one temple, but several dozen spread out over a hundred plus square kilometers, one of which is Angkor Wat. They were originally created to honor Hindu gods, but were later converted into Buddhist temples. The temples, all of which were made of rock, were each likely surrounded by a village made of wood, but the wood has since disappeared.
IMG_2359.jpgA creative tuk tuk in Siem Reap
IMG_2361.jpgIn downtown Siem Reap
IMG_2369.jpgThis was great- an actual ice vendor- he would come by and saw off a piece for local businesses

Since we only had one day to sightsee, we hired a tuk-tuk for the day to buzz us around several temples. We saw a lot of temples but below I've only put pictures in of a few, or else you'd be reading forever. While spending just one day at Angkor is considered a sacrilege to some, it was unfortunately all the time we had. The Temples of Angkor are truly amazing and definitely a wonder of the world!

Angkor Wat
aw1.jpgThe national symbol of Cambodia. It was built between 1113 and 1150 roughly in honor of the Hindu god Vishnu.
aw2.jpgInside of the Angkor temple
aw3.jpgOne of the wall carvings named "The Churning of the Sea of Milk". It depicts gods on one side and demons on the other, both holding an enormous serpent that churns the sea to produce an elixir of immortality :)
aw4.jpgOutside the main Angkor temple

Bayon Temple
bay3.jpgDescribed as a basket of bottles, each of the 49 towers is surrounded by four faces.
bay1.jpgOne of the towers and faces up close
bay2.jpgOne of the carvings supposed to depict everyday Khmer life at the time
IMG_2284.jpgMonks in their fabulous saffron robes coming to the temple for prayer

Ta Phrom
ta1.jpgOne of the most atmospheric temples in Angkor as it has been left to the elements. It is also, coincidentally, where they filmed Tomb Raider
ta2.jpgEnormous trees and strangler figs have grown all over the site and in some places on top of or straight through structures
ta4.jpgJust outside the temple

We hiked up their small "mountain" for some sunset views. It was pretty cool to see the main temple of Angkor from a distance.
IMG_2332.jpgAngkor Wat
IMG_2338.jpgJust at sunset

With only eight days left in South East Asia, we are heading back to Bangkok in order to meet up with my PA school friends for some Thailand island hopping! We’ll write more soon!

Posted by geldere 08:34 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

In the Ring of Fire – Indonesia


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Indonesia is huge - it is made up of about 17,000 islands – and we are only going to see two! There is undoubtedly a lot to see, but given our time constraints, we decided to focus on Java, the most populated island in the world, and Bali. We flew from Manila to the capital of Indonesia, Jakarta, located in western Java. Jakarta as a city is fairly uninspiring - basically a concrete jungle choked with pollution. But, there are some sights to see, and we checked them out like dutiful tourists. We stopped by a still functioning school were President Obama studied for four years as a child (his stepfather was Indonesian). Then, we stopped by the National Monument and Museum to learn the underlying story of Indonesia and caught a glimpse of the Presidential Palace (also known as the “white house”). Finally, we made our way to the old Dutch section of town and stopped at Batavia for an early dinner, an atmospheric restaurant which looks down on the old town square. Nowadays the town square hosts a hodge-podge market and is a hangout place for locals.
IMG_1644.jpgThe National Monument in Jakarta
IMG_1652.jpgThe Presidential Palace "the white house" mainly because it's white
IMG_1672.jpgThe Dutch section of Jakarta

After one full day in Jakarta, we took an overnight train to Yogyakarta (pronounced “Jojakarta”) in central Java. The town is a common base for exploring two nearby temples, but it also has a few sights as well. The Taman Sari, also known as the Water Palace, is an old complex of palaces and pools where the sultan had his “secret pleasure rooms”. Interestingly, it now sits in ruin and locals have built homes and shops in and around the site. We also hit up the main market area and bought my 6th, yes 6th, pair of sunglasses on the trip. I seem to have a hard time not sitting on them or bending them somehow (thankfully, they are generally cheap to buy).
IMG_1674.jpgGetting a ride on a tricycle to our hotel
IMG_1694.jpgInside of the Water Palace
3IMG_1699.jpgOutside one of the buildings at the water palace
IMG_1703.jpgInside their shopping complex in Yogya

The main reason we were in Yogya was to see the temples of Prambanan and Borobudur. We headed out early the next morning on a day tour with Borobudur as our first stop. It’s an amazing Buddhist temple constructed around the 9th century AD. The six levels you climb up are supposed to represent the process of getting to enlightenment with Nirvana being the highest level. Its top levels were only recently re-opened to tourists as the nearby volcano erupted last year covering the site in 2 inches of ash. Indonesia is made up of a lot of volcanoes hence where it earns the nickname "the ring of fire". There are over 3 million visitors a year to the temple, but only 100,000 are foreign, which made us a bit of a novelty. As such, we were constantly approached by families and giggling teenagers to pose for photos. Our tour guide managed to keep it at a reasonable rate, but once he left us it was like a free-for-all. After having our pictures taken by about 20 different groups, we were feeling a little overwhelmed, so we headed back down to hide inside a museum until it was time to move on to Prambanan. I did manage to get a video of a huge group of girls getting their photo with Jeff – it’s pretty funny.
Jeff and the School Kids

IMG_1722.jpgOne of the families we posed with for photos- they don't smile much for photos ;)
IMG_1737.jpgReally intricate carvings when you get up close- amazing!
IMG_1739.jpgBuddha carvings
IMG_1757.jpgIn Nirvana, the highest level
IMG_1792.jpgThese particular images are everywhere here

Prambanan is a large and beautiful complex of 50 Hindu temples (not Buddhist). It was built around the same time as Borobudur, so both temples stand as a sign of the religious co-existence which existed in central Java in and around the 9th century AD. Unfortunately, a lot of the complex was extensively damaged in a 2006 earthquake (Indonesia has a lot of natural disasters) and many temples are yet to be reconstructed. The main site is made up of six of the largest temples and our tour guide had a lot of fun telling us the Hindu stories of Brahma which are depicted in carvings around the temples. Both Prambanan and Borobudur are well worth a visit and are among the most impressive religious structures we’ve seen since leaving the Middle East.
IMG_1793.jpgOne temple with what are a lot of the remanants of old temples that have fallen down
IMG_1810.jpgThe main temple at Prambanan
IMG_1826.jpgOutside the temple grounds

For our next big stop we headed east through Java to Mt. Bromo. Known for its beautiful vistas and interesting scenery, we were excited to peek down inside an active volcano. We went to bed early as we had a 3:30am wake-up call (everyone seems to think all mountains are best seen at sunrise) and were bummed the next morning to wake up to rain. Nevertheless, we made our way via jeep and hiking to a viewpoint on the crater rim for a surprisingly decent view despite the weather (but no sunrise). We then headed out by jeep across the crater valley and hiked up 270 steps to peer inside the volcano. By this time, we were absolutely soaked through and our umbrella broke in the wind. It was slightly nerve racking standing on the edge of a volcano that frequently erupts, but thankfully did not while we were there :) Afterwards, all I can say is thank God for hot showers!
IMG_1849.jpgA view of the caldera (collapsed volcano) just after sunrise
IMG_1854.jpgAt the viewpoint-already pretty wet
IMG_1873.jpgLooking down into the volcano- and thorougly soaked through!
IMG_1885.jpgView of the surrounding town on our drive back down

Once we got down off of Mt. Bromo, we hopped on a bus headed to Bali. We’ll write more soon!

Posted by geldere 05:22 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

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