Indonesia,  Round the world

Kilometer 37 576: in the jaws of Java

You come to Bali to eat, pray and love.

I was returning from Poland with a few extra kilograms in the hip area, meditation is not my cup of tea, hence the first two elements did not particularly excite me, but for the first time in a year and a half I got to miss Piotrek, so the third one – oh, yes.

Accommodated in a beautifully located hostel, we opened the first of three, and at the same time the only legal bottle from our favorite vineyard near Lublin. The man from the Balinese luggage X-ray turned a blind eye on the second bottle (advantages of a solo-travelling woman with an arm-sling), he did though seriously question the third one, but I explained to him that it was organic Polish honey. I didn’t think to mention that it had been fermented.

Piotr, a man as exuberant as a hermit crab, needed a moment to switch from the mode so I will now isolate myself from the world and walk the mountains so that I don’t have to talk to anyone to of course, I will very gladly tell you in details everything I’ve been doing for the past three weeks. I had prince polo with me (a favourite Polish chocolate bar in case you don’t know (?!)), so it went rather smoothly.

This is Piotrek isolating himself from the world.

As befits a true scientist, Piotrek’s stay in Sumatra and Java ran according to Newton’s third law of motion[1], that is – he subdued the distance on both islands, and the islands, with particular emphasis on the latter, subdued him.

A four-hour ferry crossing from Malacca brought Piotrek to a world that was cleared for palm oil. Palm trees have taken over the landscape and reached where sight cannot reach. Sumatra is one of the two places where you can see orangutans. Well, I do hope that along with all the rest of the local fauna they are happy that they don’t have to cut their trails through the rainforest with a machete anymore, because – let’s be real here – has anyone ever seen a happy monkey with a machete?

In addition to palm trees, a permanent element of the Sumatran landscape are elderly women wrapped in colorful hijabs, calling “Hello mister! How are you mister?” and then sending for a welcoming committee led by a local English teacher surrounded by curious children with big, dark eyes. (Considering the local hygiene and medical standards, some of these eyes will fall victim to an amoeba, worms, or other parasites.) The committee asks a number of questions, welcomes Piotrek to their village and invites him to give a language-geography-general-information class from which the students don’t benefit too greatly, because the majority of girls focuses on the fact that this new teacher is so handsome, and most boys start dreaming of such a lush beard when they grow up. After the class, the teacher remembers that his brother-in-law is just going right in the same direction as Piotrek, so the brother-in-law takes Piotrek to a village located 20km further, where the situation repeats itself.

Breaking young girls’ hearts…

This is how our hero wandered for a week from one village to another, breaking many a young women’s hearts and giving false hope to teenage boys, sightseeing palm trees and once only getting to an actual piece of rainforest where illegal dogfights were taking place, so the organizers weren’t too happy with his presence and politely asked him to leave the territory.

So Piotrek went to Java, and the first man he met there gave him a joyful “Hello mister! How are you mister?” and then demanded money, using the irrefutable argument: “because I said so”. The second man did the same thing. After the third one Piotrek thought: “What the heck is going on?” Yes, that’s exactly what he thought. In the following days, every step of his way Piotrek was surprised at the creativity, effectiveness and refinement in repairing the Javanese household budgets.

For example, in Poland we have this tradition of stopping wedding parties to get vodka. But guess what – you get much better results if you don’t limit yourself just to weddings and instead of vodka – demand money! You’d think that with the highway tolls we’re just one step behind, but no. There’s still plenty to learn.

Place of action: supermarket. Piotrek quickly gave up on bazaar shopping, due to the price multiplication, depending on the client’s origin. Having spotted reduced tomato sauces and having filled the basket, he approached the cash register, trusting its fiscal nature. The cashier added everything up and quoted a price 3x higher than expected. Arguments: sales are only for locals, and besides, additional tourist taxes apply.

The only Javanese who didn’t try to rip Piotrek off. Does this  deserve an award?

Aware of the danger, but still not losing hope, Piotrek tried his luck with hitchhiking. “Sure brother, I help you, for free!” – the driver exclaimed cheerfully. 50km later the same driver set his dog on Piotrek for 15$ [2].

So off Piotrek went, unbitten by the dog and lighter by 15$, with his morale around his ankles, to the railway station. Effect: only super-vip-extra-first-business class tickets are available for tourists. Indefatigable, he walked half of the island, swatting away kids who followed him shouting “Give me money, because you’re a tourist.”

Piotrek did not like Indonesia at all. I listened to the stories, I understand the arguments, but I still think it’s because I wasn’t there.

[1] If body A exerts a force F on body B, then body B exerts an equal and opposite force -F on body A. Don’t look at me like that, Piotrek dictated it to me.

[2] Under normal circumstances, 15$ allows you to travel several hundred kilometers by local transport.

He did bring pretty pictures with him, though 🙂 This is Bromo…

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The Borobudur temple complex in Yogyakarta

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And more volcanoes: the crater of Ijen
Lots of sulphur!

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