Greetings and salutations. Welcome to another winter of travel discoveries and diaries, laced with questionable sentence structure and off colour commentary.
There are a bunch of you who have been on my email list for years — thanks for putting up with the stories. What many of you won’t know is that I’ve been selling these stories and photos for the past three years to a newspaper. What can I say — I like the hour. This form of prostitution has been good for my writing. There is also some perverse pleasure in hoisting a large beer on a tropical island and yelling "this one’s on the Sun!"
Okay, someone’s going to have to turn down this Call to Prayer. I mean sweet Jesus, how does anyone get any rest around here? Indonesia being a Muslim country means the Call to Prayer happens five times a day.
We’ve come to Java in search of the Java Man and I’m proud to report that the he is alive and well and settling comfortably into the ex-pat bar scene. His head is slanted forward towards a big screen television as he yells at his favourite football team.
We arrived in Java after a brief three day stop in Singapore. It will take a few days to figure out what happened in Singapore, as in, what’s the deal with Singapore? "Singy" is like a slice of democratic socialist glitter, surrounded by a sea of chaos. Five million happy souls inhabit this island at the bottom of Malaysia. The place is a melting pot of cultures, commerce, sky scrapers and shopping malls. There is so little space left above ground that they’ve taken to building an entire city underground. It’s a subterranean oasis of air conditioned food courts and designer shoe shops.
The government has left a few remnants of colonial architecture in three distinct neighbourhoods. Little India, Little Arabia and China Town are all pretty much interchangeable, except for the head gear and kitchen utensils. The kids tried their best with the Christmas tunes in the malls, but 38C kind of takes the wind out of "Here Come Santa Claus," though "Let it Snow" was quite appealing.
Java has three distinct seasons: hot, really hot, and ridiculously hot with rain showers. After the Suharto overthrow in the late 90’s things have been pretty peaceful in Indonesia, except for the occasional bomb blast. Suharto ruled with an iron fist from 1966 to 1998. It takes a lot to get these people riled up. It’s just too hot for revolutions. As a footnote, in 2004 Suharto placed first in the "all time corruption table," well that’s some kind of accolade isn’t it?
We’re currently sweating it out in Yogyakarta. It’s been a few years since we’ve been through Indonesia and the sights and smells are slowly coming back to me. The street stall, or padang, lunches are some of the best in the world and likely the cheapest. We’ve been wandering the back streets of the old city soaking up the atmosphere until our clothes become a soaking mass of sweat. The old parts of the city are a town within a town, consisting of narrow lane-ways hidden by a high fortress wall. Quaint Dutch colonial houses with red tiled roofs line the streets. The sultan’s employees live inside the walled compound. Not sure what the workers do these days but there is still a sultan, though no one knows what he does either.
The Dutch left a legacy of colonization, from irrigation and cool architecture, to the idea that a table of four people should each have separate bills.
The heat and traffic are taking their toll, so we’re off to visit some ruins in the jungle.