A Taste of Java


Since my mom lives in Vancouver and I in Reykjavik, we decide to meet halfway in Jakarta (it kinda makes sense… if you look at flight routes). Me and my mom have never lived well together, but traveling in south east Asia another story, since we both love spicy, oriental food more than each other (an exaggeration yes, but only slightly). We also appreciate pampering manicures, and indulged in the chance to paint various pictures on our toes and fingernails (mostly cherry blossoms, batik flowers and strawberries).

We were hosted by my mothers trillionaire friends (if you count in Indonesian rupiahs), and got the kind of VIP treatment that only visiting heads-of-state deserve to get. They planned every waking hour of our 12 day visit to boast their beautiful country, an each days schedule revolved around 3 things: breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Our very first meal, ordered street side on the closed parking lot of a mechanic shop, started with fermented cassava covered in cheese and chocolate, and ended with a half-boiled egg mixed with pepper and fish sauces served in a drinking glass. It was just a gooey conglomerate of yellow, white and grayish streaks.

We ate like royal queens, barely digesting (not an exaggeration) all sorts of unnameable spices covering the unmentionable parts of animals I had never tried before (feet and heads and the whole nine yards). We ate bat (yes, like batman), fried cow skin, internal organs (“tripe” is the euphemism for guts, stomachs and livers), and a whole bunch of sea food we had to crack open with our teeth and pretty little fingernails.

We visited Bandung, a city famous for outlet shopping malls, since many of the international brand name factories produce their clothes there in excess and sell off the extras at fractions of the price. Apparently people come from all over Australasia and the Middle East to get their cheap Nike and who knows what else (I don’t know my brand names very well), plus there’s the appeal of cheap imitation purses and batik cloth that every tourist (and my shopaholic mother) seemed to love. I mostly loved Kawa Puthi, the steaming volcano crater we visited and the albino horse with pink hair that I rode there. The geothermal spring below if that we bathed in was also a homey place (it was literally like being in an Icelandic pool).

We went during rainy season, which wouldn’t have been a real problem except I hadn’t seen the sun in 2 weeks (I came directly from the arctic), and the rains turned into big floods. We watched the international news coverage playing footage of our eventual demise from inside our Jakarta hotel room, and eventually decided to flee the city and fly to Yogyakarta, a few hundred km east in Java. There we visited some very old Hindu and Buddhist temples that could easily rival Angor Wat, but still it was my first time hearing about them. As elephants walked past me in the gardens around Borobudur, I wondered why we only hear about certain UNESCO world heritage sites (and concluded it’s because Borobudur and Prambanan are both impossible to spell or pronounce).

We didn’t know it then, but a few days after leaving Yogyakarta, a 6.5 Richter scale earthquake struck, so we had successfully fled yet another natural disaster in Indonesia


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