Semarang, Island of Java (Indonesia)
As soon as I opened my eyes, I could tell by the temperature in the cabin that it was hot outside. It was permeating through the sliding glass doors again. I was almost afraid to turn the TV on to see what the temperature was. It read 85*; & it was only 7:30 in the morning! I wouldn’t have even opened the thick, room darkening drapes except for the fact that I could hear music coming in from the outside. I stepped out on the verandah; & there were some local performers there to welcome us. My glasses fogged over from the initial blast of humidity. Oh goody!!
Within minutes Liz was knocking at the door with my breakfast of muesli & toast. I am all for tasting the local culture; but after about 15 mins. of that music, I was ready to shoot myself. They seemed to play the same 2 notes, over & over. And this went on for close to an hour! I’ve read where Indonesian music was meant to put one into a trance. I’m guessing that tourists must ‘zone out’ so that it just appears that they are in a trance.
Packing a ‘day bag’ for a full day’s tour is like packing for this cruise. You want to be prepared for anything that comes your way. And then you feel like a pack animal the rest of the day. Capt. Glenn made his morning announcement at 8 am, delivering more news I wasn’t ready to hear…..there was no breeze out there. But I did love his thought for the day; “It is nice to be important; but it is more important to be nice.”
My 9 hr. tour was the Monumental Borobudur & the Exquisite Amanjiwo Resort by minivan (SEM-CW) that departed at 8:45. There were several tours that would take you to Borobudur; but I chose this one because of the lunch at this exclusive (only 36 rooms) resort & because we traveled by minivan. I figured they would be able to drop us off closer to the temple than the buses would have. (And I was partially right.) There was some initial confusion about who would get in which van. Since I was a ‘single’, I was assigned whichever had an empty seat. I had van #15 with Debbie (Asst. Shore Exc. Mgr.) & Pete (Casino) as our escorts. Debbie & I were privileged to get the back row again & have our brains scrambled by the bumpy ride. More scribbly notes I wouldn’t be able to read when I got home.
We had an excellent guide, Pieter; he never introduced our driver. He shared some really interesting stories, great information, & delivered it with perfect English. Our group of 6 passengers & the 2 crewmembers were like one big happy family by the end of the day. I admit that Debbie broke the ice early in the trip when she pulled an interesting & potentially lifesaving traveler’s product from her bag of goodies. It was a package of Urinelle (disposable funnel like urine catchers for women). She wanted to let the ladies know that if we came across any of those ‘squat-down’ holes in the floor, that she had something that would make it a little less awkward for us. Someone on the front row asked to see the package up close. The men were like….shocked! We started discussing certain aspects of using this ‘device’; & the conversation pretty much went downhill from there. From that point on, no subject seemed to be off limits; & everything we said innocently came across with suggestive undertones. One of the men said, “We already let you wear pants; now you want to pee standing up?” I think I lucked out & definitely got in the right minivan.
Another memorable aspect to this tour was the fact that our caravan of minivans had a police escort. If we hadn’t, it might have taken 5 hours to get to Borobudur rather than 3 (130 km). I thought the drivers in Bali were crazy; the Javanese are insane! A two lane road would have 4 lanes of traffic traveling on it. You might have one lane going north & one going south; & that was just on the left hand side of the road. (I know that may not make much sense to y’all; it didn’t to me either & I was watching it happen.)
The guide told us that their day usually starts around 4:30 am for family breakfast & prayers (85% Muslim). School starts at 6:15; their ‘rush hour’ is from 6:30-7:30; Monday through Sat. There is about 60% unemployment here. I noticed a lot of ‘slum-like’ areas; & very little evidence of affluence. But, unlike Bali, 75% of the houses appeared to have satellite dishes (which looked strange since they are pointing straight up due to their latitude right along the equator).
At the halfway point in our road trip (both going & coming back), we made a rest stop at the Banana 9 Coffee House. These people must have made a mint; their parking lot crammed full of buses & vans. They even had a security guard that stood out in the middle of the road to stop traffic so the caravans entering & leaving could stay in formation. I chose not to get out of the van because it was not easy squeezing this body between rows of tiny seats. I was happy to stay on, stretch out in the back seat & read. Debbie was so sweet to bring back a little treat for me…..a type of tapioca dough, coconut filled thingy & a stem full of klengkeng fruit. It doesn’t look like a lychee on the outside; but it does on the inside. I’m a lychee fanatic! It wasn’t nearly as sweet as a lychee; but it was interesting to try it. And I thank Debbie immensely for even thinking about me. The driver pointed out the klengkeng fruit trees along the road. It was strange that the people had woven these little baskets & put them high up in the trees around the fruit clusters to protect the fruit from the birds until they were ripe.
We drove through little rural towns & some rather large cities. We passed thousands & thousands of acres planted with rice, soybeans, corn & hot peppers. In the smaller towns, you would see markets set up right at the road’s edge; some were nothing more than bamboo framework holding up plastic sheeting. You occasionally saw a group of stalls that had nothing but sweet potatoes stacked up sky high. Then there would be beautifully arranged stacks of dragon fruit, breadfruit, corn or watermelon. If only we hadn’t been speeding past, I could have gotten more shots of their unique displays.
It’s hard to take it all in. This 100+’ tall structure sits on a pyramid shaped base. The next 5 tiers are square terraces; topped with 3 circular terraces; at the very top is a giant dome. The stone surface consists of over 2,600 carved stone panels; more than half of which depict the life of Buddha & his reincarnation. It is said that as you climb each tier & reach the top level, you will have reached nirvana (“heaven”). Needless to say, I DID NOT experience nirvana today. But heat stroke was a near possibility. As the other members of my group made the climb, I waited on the opposite side for them to come back down. After what seemed like an eternity, I moved to a spot where I could see 2 of the four sides. I do believe they got lost!
There were tons of individual tourists at the site; as well as 6 minivans & probably 10 tour buses. I was frantically searching for familiar faces; & I saw plenty. But most of them said they came with the bus group. I figured if I was ever going to get back home again, I was going to stay lost with ‘them’. I could always hitch a ride back with the bus people. The ‘bus people’ were to have lunch there on the grounds of the temple; while the ‘van people’ were being treated to lunch at the Amanjiwo Resort. I followed them back down this steep hill toward their dining hall; & I just kept walking toward a parking lot full of buses. I can’t tell you the relief when I found those 6 vans tucked way in the back of the parking lot. I was about to get nauseated from the heat; & I had to fight my way through a huge throng of vendors waving carved wood masks, folding fans, sarongs, patchwork duffle bags (& of all things model-car sized bicycles?) in your face. Thank GOD the driver had already turned on the air conditioner.
I sat in the front row with my face in the a/c vents until I could breathe again. And then I squeezed myself onto the back row of seats. I found the ice chest; but there were no cold wash clothes (Crystal usually has cold wash clothes scented with lavender to refresh ourselves after an outing). The best I could do was grab some of the water bottles that were floating in melted ice; & hold them all over my face & neck. In a short while, I realize that I was going to live after all. About 15 mins. later, the rest of my group FINALLY made it back to the van. They said it was even hotter up on top & not a breeze to be found anywhere. I want to know why none of them looked as sweaty or red in the face as I did?
As awful as this photo is....this is me one tick away from heat stroke!
It only took maybe 5 mins. to arrive at the Amanjiwo resort. There was a security check point (where they used mirrors to check the underside of the van for bombs) & then a lush tropical winding road up to a curved stone portico that was the entrance to the hotel lobby. We were greeted by smiling staff, bowing with their hands folded (as in prayer). It was so……Indonesian. This building itself was round, surrounded by a moat type fountain with water lilies floating in it. We were escorted to long rows of tables elaborately set with printed menus on gold cards at each place setting. We were seated in an open, covered, curved portico dining area that clung to the edge of the mountain with a view of deep valleys & Borobudur Temple off in the distance. The ceiling was domed silver. There were 2 gentlemen on the other end of the dining room playing their xylophone-type music (not the monotonous, 2 note version like this morning); REAL music. It was similar to spa music; mystical & soothing. It was a surreal setting.
We were offered a choice of beer, soft drink or their signature cocktail (which Debbie tried & said was quite good although she wasn’t sure what was in it). Our first course was a bowl of chilled gazpacho soup; excellent & so refreshing. Our main course was cold roasted veal medallions with asparagus spears, topped with salad greens, cherry tomatoes & a tuna mayonnaise dressing (I detected no taste of tuna, unless that was a typo on the menu).
About this time, some clouds started rolling in; & within seconds the waiters were out on the patio area grabbing the cushions & pillows. Another second passed & the flood gates opened. Pouring rain, sideways sometimes, rolling thunder & a 25* drop in temperature. We all just sat there, staring out at it. It was as if it were a sign from God (or Buddha). The staff brought out trays of wash cloths damp with lemongrass scented water. Luscious! I think we all immediately felt refreshed & reinvigorated.
There was tea or coffee to go with a delicious flowerless chocolate cake with raspberry coulis & crème fraiche for dessert. I was thinking it would be really nice to have a hammock strung between the columns so I could listen to the rain & nap. Some people dispersed toward the shops; I visited the restroom. And what a restroom it was. What a delicious place this would be to stay. So, if you’re ever in Indonesia on the island of Java, it’s worth considering.
We left the restaurant at 2:35; again with our police escort. The guide was fairly quiet on the way back to the ship. I think he was savvy enough to realize that everyone was pooped & sated from the delicious lunch. We had to make our way through some flooded streets; & the windows were splattered with rain so you couldn’t see much. So, I read a little; others napped. We had another rest stop at Banana 9; & finally made it back to the ship at 5:40.
It felt so good to be ‘home’. As I was walking through the Crystal Cove, I saw Anne Marie & Keith standing by the window watching all the returning guests. They had made a short trip into town, choosing to spend most of the day on the ship. I filled them in on my adventure while they waited for the dining room to open. I made a beeline to my cabin. I was beyond beat. I ordered dinner & took a shower. I was on the bed with my feet propped up on the wall when Liz came with my dinner. She stood & talked about today’s crew emergency drill; & I told her about the wacky traffic. She started telling stories about traffic in Mumbai (India). Sounds like the Indians might have been the ones who taught the Javanese how to drive.
I had a delicious dinner. I started with a slice of seafood & wild mushroom strudel with a saffron-dill sauce. Flaky pastry & hearty stuffing. It was outstanding.
This was followed by a bowl of cream of asparagus soup with rye bread croutons. Not your ordinary cream of asparagus; this had chunks of sun dried tomatoes in it. Excellent contrasting flavors!
My main course was pan seared sea scallops that rested on a bed of lemon cous cous; served with crayfish sauce. It was accompanied by sugar snap peas & braised red cabbage. Superb!!!
I barely made it through dinner. Tonight we had another time change; this time running the clock FORWARD an hour (it’s payback time now). I knew I had taken well over 300 photos today; but I had not one ounce of energy to even turn the computer on. Yet, another day behind on this blog. But tonight I was just too tired to care. I didn’t read; I just turned out the light about 8pm. Fade to black…….