Monday, July 20, 2009

Furniture and Fini

My sister decided she wanted the furniture, so I got another driver and went back and bought it – that was stressful, but now that it’s in the new apartment it looks great, and I want some Indonesian furniture for my own new apartment! Of course, I don’t know when or where or what that will be, and I already have a lot of rugs to incorporate, so I am getting way ahead of myself.

Ubud is also known for the walks that you can take from it – I did part of one of the ones recommended in the book, past a temple with a lotus pond, a bridge, another museum (this one the home and studio of a painter named Blanco, a.k.a. The Dali of Bali) and a little village. Had lunch at Casa Luna, another renowned restaurant; this time nasi campur, a mini-rijstaffel with five little dishes.

How do you get ready for an overnight flight that leaves at 1:00 am? Maybe with a massage, body scrub and body mask! At least that’s how I did it, and it probably helped. Back for more reading on the sleeping platform, a repeat dinner at Three Monkeys, and again, some sadness at the thought of leaving. I know I have a tendency to say I want to return to every place I visit, but in the case of Bali, it was a stronger tug than it was for the others. As opposed to I’d like to go back, I hope to come back. I loved it there.

I had the driver who had take us on the excursion and driven me to Ubud drive me down to the airport – relationships matter; I knew he’d be there to get me. Leaving was not easy emotionally, nor was it easy physically. I had picked up a few things here and a few there and when it all came together, I had to expand the suitcase, but everything fit. Not good enough for the staff in the Bali airport – instead of just paying for an overweight bag, I had to buy an additional bag at the airport and redistribute the weight (I was far from the only person doing this). Heavy-duty cloth bag (orange – back to reality soon enough, when orange is a Princeton color) but not a sturdy one, and no lock – I had to figure out not only what would fit in there and what would be enough to lighten the load but also what I could live without seeing again if I had to – it would be on one flight, would sit by itself in Osaka airport all day, and then be on another flight. Had I known, I would have mailed things back from Bali, but I thought it would be all right to wait to mail it from Hawaii in the good old U.S. mail. I precision-spent my money, too – I had just enough for that bag and the departure tax. Once it left my possession, though, I ceased worrying about it – after all that good will and happiness, I wasn’t about to change my mood! It was all in Allah’s and – is Vishnu the preserver? – then Vishnu’s hands. And once I stopped worrying about the luggage, I also stopped being sad about leaving – returning, or traveling elsewhere, is also in the hands of the fates. And sure enough, when I got to Hawaii it was all there.

So ends Southeast Asia – so ends Asia, since I’ve already talked about my day in Japan. December 5 to January 14, five and a half weeks - It was long enough for the kind of trip where you travel to a bunch of places, but not long enough to really experience it – I found myself wondering how and when I could get back there, and I guess the Universe figured out a way for me to get back there for another six months. We’ll see if post-Philippines travel in the region is to come. It was a great way to celebrate the end of my Peace Corps service as well as my birthday – but I didn’t do too much reflection, because I knew that the adventure was going to continue – an entire additional adventure (or set of further adventures) awaited in the United States!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Whitewater Rafting - The Best!

In addition to cultural performances, you can take cultural classes in Ubud – dance, art, cooking – so what did I do? Whitewater rafting! It might have been the best thing I did on the entire trip. I love whitewater rafting! It was on the Agung River – 11 km of class II and III rapids. Fun, fun, fun. I was in a boat with five Chinese women, who must have been inspired by the Olympics. They were laughing and having a great time and even though I didn’t understand what they said, I laughed right along. We all said, “yee – aow” (one, two) to stroke in unison – so I learned some Chinese! Fast-moving river, not a lot of downtime between rapids, beautiful scenery. Of course, for most of it the camera was in a waterproof bag, but I snapped one pic when we took a break, and I bought the touristy shot of all of us that a photographer takes while you’re in a rapid and then develops in time to sell to you at the end of the trip. If I’d had another day I might have done it again – I want to go whitewater rafting again soon!

Back to the hotel for a little rest (just a little) and then to the Ubud Botanical Gardens – not in any of the tour books but in a Times article on 36 Hours in Bali. The walk was farther than I thought; the garden had had some flood damage but was still nice. To avoid a long walk back I took another moto – but where the previous day’s ride was fun, this was a little scary, so that’s it for motos. A little more shopping – more sarongs and some clothes – to complete the square of main streets of Ubud.

Then I had a driver take me to the furniture town. My sister wanted me to buy her some Indonesian furniture for the new apartment. My South Africa host had some beautiful Indonesian furniture, but I was a little nervous about buying furniture for someone else in another country – I did send a cell phone picture, but still! Then again, if she didn’t want it I would have taken it – I don’t have much furniture in storage, and I liked what I picked out! I waited out some afternoon rain on the sleeping platform and then ate dinner at Three Monkeys, another fine Ubud restaurant. As stated earlier, Bali probably had the nicest restaurants on the trip – combination of Indonesian and the more familiar, with just the right ingredients and spices and exquisite atmosphere and presentation.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Back to Bali

If you go to Bali, you must make sure to go to Ubud, tempting though it may be to stay on the beach (well, not in January). If it’s possible, I felt even happier in Ubud than I’d already been – lighter and filled with spirit. It’s known for its performances – there are several different cultural performances every evening. I didn’t see any of them; I just enjoyed the happy, relaxed feeling there. I went out to the sleeping platform to read in the morning – no need to get up and at ‘em. Then I went to a museum; Balinese art has a lot of detail, a lot of color, a lot of humans and animals. I did some window shopping along Monkey Forest Road, and went to Café Wayan, which Lonely Planet said had Death by Chocolate cake (I knew I had read it somewhere). How did it compare to the one in Kuta? Well, this one warranted a photograph!

I went to the art market – back when I made beaded jewelry (something I missed while in Morocco) there were things called Bali beads – silver, decorated with filigree, sometimes with a little chime inside. I had to buy Bali beads in Bali! The royal palace – the sultans that used to be in charge of their little pieces of Indonesia are still governing their little pieces, though I don’t know exactly how. But it was good to be the sultan in Yogya and not bad to be in the royal palace here either. Past a temple or two. Another art museum (you don’t need evening performances to experience culture in Ubud) and then a ricefield walk – peaceful, even when it started to rain (but, luckily, not pour). I was at the far end of town and didn’t want to walk all the way back in the rain, so I paid for a moto ride. I asked for a helmet – it wasn’t going to be automatically provided – and got on, breaking both Peace Corps policy and one of my father’s absolute no’s. Then again, those were for motorcycles, not motos. It was kind of fun, I hate to admit – but I wouldn’t rent one to drive by myself. It rained more at night in Ubud than during the day – which was wonderful for sleeping. I read some more, went back to the same café for dinner, bought a few little things, wrote cards and read some more (it was kind of nice not to have internet at the hotel).

Before I go on, I should note the front-page (or at least front-home-page) news about bombings at the Marriott and Ritz-Carlton in Jakarta. Generally when I travel I look for boutique hotels, bed and breakfasts, or, when in Peace-Corps mode, budget or mid-range places. I have points with some of the chains but haven’t traveled for business in a while! The place I stayed in Jakarta happened to be affiliated with Intercontinental, but I didn’t know that until I got there – it’s not on their signs or web site. And you’ll recall that it was in the old Dutch quarter – not near the center where these two hotels were. Still, it saddened me to see the news – both for the people who are dead and injured and also for Indonesian tourism. There had been encouraging news there lately, with what seemed to be a smooth presidential election. I wish them well.

Friday, July 17, 2009

And Additional Recent Goings-On

When I found out on July 1st that my departure date had been postponed again, I thought there might be an opportunity to join the Southampton Writers Conference. The dates fit perfectly! I had noticed it in March but July seemed too far off at the time for me to apply. I emailed and called them, printed out a writing sample, biked over to the SUNY Stony Brook Southampton campus with my application. Alas, it is full. After all of those University of Chicago courses that were cancelled or lightly-attended! Well, it’s good to know some segment of the economy isn’t hurting. It’s okay – I think it would have made for a stressful last couple of weeks – but now I will apply early next year; if I get a job/move/something else, I’m only out the application fee (and maybe a deposit). Actually, it’s more than okay – friends and family will be here next week, and I wouldn’t have had much time to spend with them. In fact, this might be my last day of solitude – perhaps for months! And it’s also okay because I am not sure I am in the frame of mind for a workshop where my writing would be critiqued. I’d love to learn more about crafting, and I think the lectures could be inspiring, but (there are no coincidences) while I was waiting to hear one way or the other I just happened to read the past two New Yorker fiction issues. In one, there was an essay about the evolution of writing programs, and the description of the workshop process sounded potentially ego-bruising. In another, there was a cartoon about Santa’s Workshop, in which he was told he needed something more than, “Ho ho ho” in Act II. Yep, maybe next year. I had a chance to get some extra writing in anyway – I found out that I passed the Foreign Service Officer written test, and the next step was to write some essays. The questions were different from those asked last year so I couldn’t just adapt what I wrote then; these essays were all-new!

Biking to the SUNY Stony Brook Southampton campus was good, though – it occurred to me that I could bike farther than just into Southampton Village and along the beach and bay. I biked to Sagaponack (about eight miles away) to visit the Madoo Conservancy, which has been called, “one of the ten best gardens in America.” It was indeed beautiful, but for me the place itself was overshadowed by the thrill of the bike ride. Yesterday's post included a pic of the Southampton Rose Garden, near the library, by the way.

Another place I had read about is Conscience Point, the spot where the first English settlers landed in 1640; my sister and I went up there this past weekend. There’s a trail and a rock with a plaque – and a spot to contemplate what it must have been like for both the colonists and the people who were already here before they arrived.

We then went to a nearby National Wildlife Refuge – took a nice walk and saw, among other things, these wild turkeys!

And on the subject of birds (Amy will like this!) – near the house there is a piping plover nest. Earlier this week they were putting up additional fencing, because the eggs were about to hatch. The plover is endangered, and they don’t want cars crushing the babies. They walk to get food – the mother doesn’t bring it back to them – and after about a month they can fly. I mentioned that I picked up trash, and the environmental scientist told me that that’s a good thing; trash attracts predators. But there are still so many – feral cats, foxes, raccoons and more – I hope those little birdies make it. Two hatched yesterday - they are adorable.

We also went to one of the public events of the Southampton Writers Conference – Julie Andrews and her daughter were discussing and reading from their latest collaboration, a collection of their favorite poems, songs and lullabies. So I learned more about crafting and felt inspired after all – with a much smaller investment of time and money. And I played some Rummikub with my brother-in-law, no nieces required (though we are all looking forward to their return from camp!).

I also had another chance to bike to SUNY Stony Brook Southampton – for Hamptons Collegiate Baseball, a class-A-equivalent wooden-bat summer league. I was in Manhattan on Tuesday when the Southampton Breakers no-hit the North Fork Ospreys; I still haven’t seen a no-hitter. But maybe I saw some future major leaguers! This is the second year of baseball on the East End and the first year for the team. The short season is ending soon – I went just in time!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

And Now For Something Completely Different

I’d really like to finish writing about Bali before I leave – I thought it would be interesting to save writing about my travels in the United States until I get to the Philippines – and I should be able to do it, but I thought I’d interrupt to talk about some more recent adventures. The rains of June are in the rear view mirror and it has been sunny and not too hot, not too cold. I’ve been on those long beach walks I thought I would take when I got here - until I realized how cold and windy and/or rainy it was in March, April, May and much of June. And now I have the mission to collect trash. I’ve been on long bike rides – it’s nice and flat here, and one can see glimpses of the big houses behind the hedges. I often have errands in town – and now that I can get there on my own without relying on a ride, I buy fewer things more often. I’m still reading, and now I sometimes sit outside to do it – it took until now to be able to do that regularly. My sister ordered New York Times delivery on summer weekends, and I spend more time with the actual (though frighteningly thin) paper than I do with the online edition; what a joy. And I’ve been swimming a bit – another joy.

My friend Debbie came to visit (if I keep saying, “another joy,” it’ll be too much – though of course it was). We went into town for lunch, sampled wine at a nearby winery (not the same one I had been to way back when), went to a farm stand for fresh local strawberries and picked up trash along the beach. Later that week, my sister and I participated in an organized cleanup in Quogue, sponsored by Peconic Baykeeper. The bay trash is a little ickier than what gets swept ashore on the ocean side; there are more biting bugs, too. But it was a good thing to do.

I went to a Yankees night game with my friend Gary. Taking the 11:00 pm Jitney back to Southampton made for a late night, but I want to thank Andy Pettitte for pitching so efficiently that the game was over well in time for me to get to it. Ken Griffey and Alex Rodriguez both homered in the game – only the second time in major league history that two men with more than 550 home runs homered in the same game (Mays and Aaron, May 8, 1971). Maybe more notable, Ichiro went hitless. And Rivera got his 502nd save. I had such a good time that it solidified my decision to see another game (talked Gary into it too – even though we both favor the NL) – July 4, an old-fashioned holiday day game! And a 12-inning, four-and-a-half-hour affair – good thing I wasn’t rushing back to Southampton! I stayed in New York and went to the Whitney (good Claes Oldenberg exhibit) and the Guggenheim (for its 50th anniversary, Frank Lloyd Wright: From Within Outward), with the Wimbledon finals before and a little walk in Central Park as well. I remember writing about feeling more like an observer than a participant on my first trips to New York after coming back from Peace Corps – now I feel more at home and more ready to see museums and do New York things, and to be there on the holiday weekend when it was empty made me feel in the know. Empty except for the fireworks on the Hudson, that is – I didn’t go early to stake out a place, so I had an obstructed view! I was spoiled with Lake Michigan – plenty of room for everyone. Still, I did my part to celebrate the 400th Henry Hudson’s sail up the river that is named for him.

Speaking of the Hudson, before I decided to be in New York for the holiday weekend, I had looked into going to the Hudson Valley; it’s been percolating for a while. I’ve wanted to see Olana, Frederic Church’s house, but what moved it up on the list was the possibility of seeing Hyde Park – after seeing two presidential libraries on my trip this past winter (which ones? Stay tuned…) I wanted to see FDR’s. My sister said she would go with me, but then was reluctant to go on such a long drive (as was I – so it goes back on the list). Instead, we went up to Tarrytown to see Kykuit, the Rockefeller mansion. It was quite a house, but what made it unique was all of the modern art that Nelson Rockefeller collected – there is sculpture throughout the grounds and one-of-a-kind Picasso tapestries in the basement art galleries (no photography inside, unfortunately!). I’ve always liked the Rockefellers, and learning more about them made me all the more impressed.

Since I’ve been humming it, here is the lyric by Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields:
If I never have a cent, I’d be rich as Rockefeller. Gold dust at my feet, on the sunny side of the street.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Horses and Monkeys

The couple that swam with the dolphins and fed the monkeys had told me about a place for horseback riding (turned out they were a veterinarian and his assistant – no wonder!). Sunday morning’s pouring rain ended just in time – I’m not sure if we would have gone rain or shine. I was with another couple here too, but in this case it was a mother and daughter. We rode on a black-sand beach – there were few houses and people here – and forded a couple of rivers. We then went past rice paddies and through a couple of villages – away from the touristy area, we could see how real people lived. There were walled complexes for extended families, and each house had its own Hindu shrine for ceremonies and offerings. A couple of trots but I never cantered – I didn’t have those closed-toe shoes they always tell you to wear, and the faster gaits were tough in my Chacos. Nonetheless, it was great.

The ride ran long and I rushed back to the hotel to check out and have a quick bite (another piece of Death by Chocolate cake) and then had the driver who had taken us on the excursion drive me to Ubud, the upland cultural capital. Along the way there are various towns, each specializing in a different craft – batik, silver, wood, masks, stone. The horseback ride had tuckered me out and the cake hadn’t been enough to eat and the driver had to get back, so I didn’t stop, but that’s okay – maybe next time. I was sad to leave Un’s – up until then I don’t think I had felt sad when I moved on.

In Ubud, the hotel had individual guest cottages, complete with outdoor sleeping platform and ricefield view. No internet in the room (I guess Un’s was the only place where I had it, now that I think about it) so more time to read. I walked over to one of Ubud’s main attractions, Monkey Forest – a temple complex with a lot of monkeys. More monkeys! But it was a must-see of Ubud. A must-eat of Ubud is crispy duck, and I had some for dinner – a mini-rijstaffel in presentation, with several dishes, but here the main one is duck!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Kuta and Kecak

I didn’t make a lot of plans for Bali, thinking I would just enjoy some beach time. But after seeing all the trash the first day I wasn’t about to swim; I did take a nice, long walk once the long, torrential morning rains ended (don’t feel too sorry for me – it was nice on the lanai, and rain or no, I was in Bali). This time I went north, walking to Legian, a tonier beach. Actually, the beach was the same, but I walked back along the shopping streets, and the shops and restaurants were tonier. Sarongs for everyone! And earrings for me. My "find" was ikat - a method of weaving that involves double-dyeing of the thread - and then I came home and found ikat at Talbot's and at my sister's! I didn't have to go to the other side of the world after all. I stopped at one of the Lonely Planet’s lunch recommendations, the vegetarian Aroma’s Cafe – on the whole, Bali had the best food of the trip. And all of the restaurants were open-air (though covered), with greenery and fountains. They know what they’re doing on Bali. A little more beach, a swim in the pool, and then reading by poolside. I had taken all of my New Yorkers before I left Morocco (they do accumulate…) and torn out the articles of most interest. I was just about out of reading material, but when I booked the Bali exploration outing I spied a paperback version of one of my fluff mysteries, not yet out in paperback in the U.S., and snapped it up.

I did have a rare (for me, traveling alone) nighttime outing – in part to see the sunset (I had been too early the first day and too late the second day – this day I was on time but it was cloudy) but more for a cultural performance. Uluwatu temple, the setting, is built on a cliff and is home to some aggressive monkeys – at the entrance, I was given a sash to wear around my waist, and my driver told me to put my glasses away. I didn’t understand how going without glasses fit into the traditional garb, and belatedly realized that it was because otherwise the monkeys would grab them!

The performance was of kecak – a made-up tradition, but now a tradition, a dance performance of the 50 shirtless, checkered-skirt-wearing, chanting men. Quite entertaining! About halfway through the performance it started to pour! It put out the fire but the show kept going on. Most of the audience made a run for it, but I decided that if the performers were staying, so would I. The driver came out of the parking lot with an umbrella, but I was completely soaked, so why bother. Up until then I had been able to avoid the pouring rain – but this just added to the experience. After the show ended, many of the people who did stay had their pictures taken with some of the shirtless men – I wasn’t going to but then I thought why not!

I had planned to eat at a seaside restaurant near the temple, but was so wet that I had the driver take me back. I changed clothes and headed for another Kuta Lonely Planet recommendation, the Kopi Pot. I got soaked on the way to dinner too! Oh well – it was still delicious.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Bali Exploration

Still adjusting to that one-hour time difference from Thailand/Java time – going to bed late and getting up late. But Bali didn’t seem to be an early-morning kind of place. The area where I stayed, Kuta, is a hopping nightlife area, but I’m not really a nightlife sort – but since I didn’t stay in the center of the action in Ko Samui I thought I may as well here, even if I don’t participate!

I went on an excursion on Friday to see highlights of Bali. There are many options – including yet another all-night volcano climb, bike riding, and off-the-beaten path things, but I chose the beaten path. There were three of us on the tour – a couple and me. We left the beach and headed north into the more hilly area of the island; our first stop was an eco-resort for lunch overlooking the rice terraces. It was a good place for contemplation and just enjoying the view!

We stopped at a roadside to see monkeys – monkeys are always entertaining. Then we went to the north shore of the island (Kuta is in the southwest – so you can traverse the whole island in a couple of hours. It’s got a lot going for it for its relatively small size!). The couple had signed up to swim with dolphins – I hadn’t, so I walked around the grounds of the dolphin-swim resort and then watched them. Should I have signed up for it too? Oh well, too late. They loved it (as has everyone I have known who has done it).

We then went to a waterfall; there was a little hike into it, along terraced ricefields – I like the fact that we weren’t just getting in and out of the van. We then stopped at a much-photographed lake temple – with the shrine in the water and the fog obscuring the background, it was tranquil and uplifting. The last stop was a fruit market, where we talked to the women who were preparing the offerings. I’m glad I saw a little bit of the rest of Bali!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Bali, Hi

Did you know that Bali was in Indonesia? When a friend of mine showed me her honeymoon pictures several years ago, I’m not sure I did. My stockbroker went a couple of years ago, and she too showed me her pictures. Looked like paradise to me! Some well-traveled fellow Peace Corps types also mentioned Bali as their favorite place. And I had met someone in the Yogya Village Inn pool who hailed from New York but upon visiting Bali knew she had to find a way to live there. So I had some high expectations and recommendations. I budgeted a week for Bali – three and a half days in the beach resort town of Kuta, three and a half in the upland cultural capital of Ubud. Bali is predominantly Hindu – this gives it a very different feel from Java. But it was hard to tell how much of that was due to the religion or the different tourist culture, if that makes sense. There are little shrines everywhere, and offerings on both the temples and at every doorstep. There’s a sensation of peace and a feeling of good will, but there is also a lot more sophistication and development in the tourist options – hotels, restaurants, and shops.

My Kuta hotel, Un’s, was advertised as a sanctuary, and it seemed to be in the light of day (it had been hard to tell when I arrived – and it had big shoes to fill). I had nasi goring for breakfast (each day, accompanied by that now-familiar haunting music, which was nice) and then, as I was reviewing my options, it began to pour. I had been told it was the rainy season (as opposed to the dry season in Thailand) but it hadn’t rained a lot on Java. It poured almost every day in Kuta. Fortunately, the hotel had a lovely lanai (jumpstart on my Hawaii vocabulary – i.e., a covered porch) and I could do wifi or read. The restaurant where I had had breakfast had on its menu Death by Chocolate cake, and I decided to have that for lunch (I really hadn’t had a lot of dessert on the trip to that point – I may have made up for that with one piece of cake).

The rain finally stopped and I took a walk on the beach. When I checked in, I was told that the beach was dirty every December, but I was still unprepared for all of the trash. If I had been collecting trash for at the time, I could have filled a bag with very little walking! Hm – maybe I should have the powers behind that web site send me to Bali again this December, for reconnaissance purposes. Anyway, while I had a nice (if careful) walk, I wasn’t sure I could go swimming in the ocean (I never did – luckily, Un’s had a pool). When my sister suggested I stop in Hawaii on the way back, I told her I was going to Bali and that seemed like enough. She replied that they are two different things and she was right! Between the rain and the trash, I was glad to be going on to Hawaii.

I walked through a market, scoping things out (I had decided that sarongs were what I would bring back for people) and then up the main shopping drag, stopping at the memorial for those killed in the 2002 nightclub bombings. The monument stands at a busy corner, where one of the nightclubs was located, and contains the names of the 200 or so who perished – I went by more than once over the course of my stay, and there were always other tourists silently paying their respects. One of my books says that tourism in Bali and in Indonesia is still not at the level it enjoyed before those bombings. Australia, where most of the Bali tourists come from, is only a few hours away by plane. The bombing appears to have been an isolated incident – well, enough on that. Suffice it to say I was moved.

I walked along the beach on the way to dinner, trying to catch the sunset. I went on to Poppies, where I had a rijstaffel for dinner. I think I mentioned this earlier without explaining what it was, knowing I would get to it again in the narrative. When the Dutch came to Indonesia they wanted to be fed – the polite Indonesians brought out dish after dish, and the result became known as rijstaffel, or rice-table. The Indonesians eat one dish per meal and that’s it – but the Dutch ate multiple dishes, all with rice. There’s a lot of food. Meat dishes, vegetable dishes, different spices, different sauces. I hadn’t seen one on any menus in Java so when I saw it here I went for it. The rijstaffel was for two, and I decided I wasn’t going to let the fact that I was alone stop me – I ate my favorites and left a lot on the table (literally) and was very happy. Until Bali it hadn’t bothered me a bit to be alone, but Bali seems very romantic – a good place for couples. Actually, I think bother is the wrong word – it still didn’t bother me. But I did sense it.

Okay, moving right along – it had been a couple of days, so I went for a traditional Balinese massage (which didn’t seem that different from the traditional Javanese massage, which didn’t seem that different from a Swedish massage – Thai is what’s different). Also (this was different) – a Balinese hair creambath, an involved crème rinse and upper body/head massage. Plus, so my feet wouldn’t feel left out, a pedicure. Then I reorganized my bags – it had been a couple of days for that too!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Yogyakarta Farewell

Other things that one could do – a batik class! In Chiang Mai I thought about taking a cooking class or a massage class – I did kind of have an extra day there, but I did other things with it. Same thing here – I could have done a batik class, but I did other things around Yogyakarta. First, I went to an ethnographic and cultural history museum – Java man again, but also lots more – puppets, furniture, statues; Indonesia really has an interesting mix of cultures and influences.

Then it was off to the Sultan’s Palace (it’s good to be the sultan) for a concert – I hadn’t done any cultural performances yet on the trip! The gamelan is a traditional orchestra with 60 to 80 musical instruments, consisting of a large percussion section – which includes bronze kettle drums, xylophones, and gongs – accompanied by spike fiddles and bamboo flutes. At least that’s how Lonely Planet describes it. The book also says that the sound produced by a gamelan can range from harmonious to eerie (but always hypnotic), with the tempo and intensity of sound undulating on a regular basis. After hearing that haunting music at the temple, I wanted to see a concert for myself. The music was accompanied by (or accompanied, depending on how you look at it) a puppet show. That part was okay; I enjoyed the music more and used it to accompany postcard-writing. I also walked around the Sultan’s collections again – turns out I had been a bit crazed the first time.

I had the becak take me to some more batik and wayang places and to the main shopping area where I had been headed on my birthday before I realized I would rather be in the pool. And once again I decided I would rather be in the pool! My timing was good – it started to rain, which was no problem as long as I was in the pool. I had paid for an extra half-day so I could enjoy the hotel some more before leaving. One more satay and a delicious fried banana snack, and then I boarded an evening flight for Bali (and lost an hour while getting there).