Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Swarmed at Kopeng - Indonesia

During the weekend, I visited Kopeng, a park nearby Salatiga.  As we drove towards the top of the mountain to reach the park, N had mentioned that the sellers can be a bit annoying.  I didn't fully understand what she meant until after arriving at Kopeng.  For the first time in my life, I experienced the feeling of being swarmed by sellers for fruits, vegetables, and other goods.  It was an interesting, if not surreal experience.  It was also uncomfortable, but I'm grateful for the experience.

Since many may think I look Indonesian, I pretended to be a local, so that we wouldn't get charged extra to enter the park.  I looked away when we entered the gate and N did all the talking.

When we finally parked, two ladies and a young boy with oranges quickly approached the car.  Suddenly, a man started to walk towards us, asking "Do you want to ride the horse?"  He wouldn't leave us alone.  The people followed us around everywhere, including the man selling horse rides. He waited for us outside of the bathroom and also followed us throughout the park repeating the same question, although we continuously refused.


I smiled and waved my hand "no," but it wasn't effective.  N tells them "no thank you" repeatedly, but the sellers continue to force items on you.

We walked around the park and eventually decided to sit on the mats at the park to enjoy some refreshments.  The man mentioned that it's free to sit on the mats and provided us a menu to order from.  I ordered hot orange juice and N drank hot chocolate milk.


As we sat on the mats, a crowd of women began to come towards us.  They desperately tried to sell.  I couldn't understand much of what they were saying, especially when they spoke Javanese.  I was lost, but I knew they wanted us to purchase their goods and sometimes, they would become angry if you refused.

There were some sellers who became upset whenever you refused to buy something.  It was an uncomfortable feeling to be sitting on the mat, trying to enjoy the drinks you purchased, while being swarmed by sellers every few minutes.  I was uncomfortable, especially when we got scammed a couple times.

The man who said the mats were free to sit on, lied.  When we paid for our drinks, he never gave us any change, and stated "you also rented the mat."  There was another couple next to us who had also been swarmed.  After they left, I saw the man eating their leftover food.  I felt grossed out because I don't know if they cleaned our glasses, but it made me think that N and I may have drank from dirty cups.  

Here's a photo of the couple next to us being swarmed ...

Then, an old lady, the same one who pleaded for us to buy vegetables, returned again.  It looked like she had a bloody mouth too, which I later found out was coloring from chewing beetle nut.  N bought something from her.  Next to her, another lady approached, begging for money.  She was extremely old and I felt sorry for her.  I gave in and handed her some money.   She kept on putting her hand out. We decided to quickly escape afterward.

The park does have some beautiful attractions, including a fun pool.  I didn't go inside, but it looked like the kids in the pool were having a great time.

As we left, a "parking" man came out of the wood works.  He helped back up the car and demanded $5,000 rupiah, which is ridiculously high.  N gave him half the money and we quickly sped away.

I recently learned that I will be returning to Kopeng for school, so I wonder if the experience will be any different.  I'll have to let you all know!  There are some interesting things about the park, but you may get swarmed.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Food in Indonesia

When I first arrived in the country, I was amazed by the Indonesian people's appetites.  It seemed like people were constantly eating.  Now, I am one of them.  I can't believe how much I eat.   It's insane.  

Indonesian food is incredible.  It is now one of my favorite.  There's so much variety to choose from and I love the many fresh drinks readily available.  There's so many interesting foods!

At home, my home stay mom is an amazing cook.  She could open her own restaurant in Hawaii if she wanted.  Hawaii definitely needs an Indonesian restaurant!  At school, we are also very lucky.  The food we eat is catered.  We have snack time everyday, as well as a prepared lunch.

Dinner at home ...

Snack time ... Normally, we have a choice of coffee, tea, or water.  Then, a choice of dessert items, such as traditional Indonesian desserts or simple cake-like concoctions.

Lunch at school ...There's always variety and we get to try a number of wonderful dishes.

At times, we also eat on plates lined with banana leaf.  It's pretty interesting.

Although I like Indonesian food, the one thing I do not yet enjoy is tempe.  Yes, I know. It's really good.  But I don't like it unless it is made in a stir fry with spices.  I can't eat it plain.  People love it though!

There's also interesting Indonesian street food, among other fascinating things.  I could seriously do an entire report on Indonesian street food.  There will be more to come on this ...

Friday, June 25, 2010

Jalan Sudirman - Salatiga, Indonesia

I love walking through the main street of Salatiga, Jalan Sudirman, where there's always so much happening. There's a traditional market, as well as many shops alongside the street.  There are also a number of food vendors and more. 

The first time I walked on Jalan Sudirman, it was with my class.  We had a tour of the city.  As we were walking, it made me laugh because I always hear people yelling "Hello!"  I also see interesting things around town and it's fun observing the people.

Here are some of my photos from around town:

Jalan Sudirman is a street full of activity and has so much to offer.   Just be careful crossing the street!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Lost in Indonesia

I've survived my first week in Indonesia!  I'm having a great time here, enjoying the beautiful city and its surroundings. 

In the morning and after school, I ride the angkot. It's a blue van that people take to get to different destinations, such as to the university campus.  It costs 2,000 rupiah to ride.  I live too far from campus to walk, so i'm glad there's an easier way to get around town. 

In the angkot, you do not wear seat belts and the door is always open.   Also, you may encounter interesting episodes on one too.  My angkot crashed into a motorcycle yesterday!  Fortunately, the motorcyclists survived, although I believe their bike wouldn't start.

 The first time I rode the angkot, I got lost.  The angkot driver didn't know where my address was, so I got off with my friend who also couldn't figure out where she lived.  When we finally found her home however, it was my turn to find mine. I felt I would be able to navigate the area and find my house alone, but I was wrong.

An hour later, I was walking around, lost and confused.  No one seemed to know where I lived and I couldn't describe it to anyone either.  A man on a motorcycle approached me and asked in English, "Where are you trying to go?"  He mentioned how I looked lost and he wanted to help me.  I was getting nervous after a while because it seemed like the further I walked, the less familiar the area looked.  I also wasn't sure if I was walking into a bad neighborhood.  Fortunately, I discovered it's safe throughout the town.

The man who tried to help me asked if I could walk over to the nearby mosque, so he could hear me since the traffic outside was too loud.  I told him, "It's okay.  I think if I walk a little further, I might find my home." Minutes later, I was sitting on the steps of a mosque, lost, trying to explain where I lived.

 The man insisted he pack me on the back of his motorcycle.  It was a kind gesture, but I would never get on anyone's motorcycle back home! I didn't know him or have a helmet, so it was a big risk in my mind. I told him I was afraid, so he suggested I take the angkot.  He would lead the angkot with his motorcycle to my house. 


Inside, I felt a little hesitant, but I got into the angkot.  The kind man paid for my ride, although I refused.  When I got into the angkot, I repeated my address to the driver just in case.  Then, I noticed a motorcycle quickly speed in front of the angkot.  The man wanted to ensure I would make it home safely and led the way.  My homestay mom had been waiting on the corner. Once I saw her, I  knew I was home!  It was such a sigh of relief.

I thanked the kind man profusely.  It was truly a nice gesture.  In Hawaii, it's not easy to trust people you don't know and I try to use the same rule here.  But at the same time, I realize that some of the kindest people appear when you are lost and in need of help. I couldn't be more grateful!  The people here have truly been helpful and kind.

Later, I discovered that I wasn't the only one lost. I now realize that I have to use a certain phrase for the angkot driver to understand where I live.

It's safe and easy to ride the angkot, but there are times when the driver may not be familiar with your destination. I highly recommend you find nearby locations to let the driver know what area you live in!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Telephones in Indonesia

Since being in Indonesia, it has been an interesting challenge to call home.

The first set of challenges, I actually encountered at the Hyatt.  Unlike Japan, there are phone booths, but no place for coins and no information on how to make an international call.  Instead, I had to go to the communication center, which cost me $7.50 for a 3 minute phone call.

Once I arrived in the next city, it got even more interesting.  There was no way I could call family unless I walked down the street at the "phone booth," or purchased a phone.  It was too late to purchase a phone, so I walked down the street with my new friend who helped me find my way around town.

There's no way in the world I could have accomplished this alone.  We walked into a neighborhood and asked a man to use the "pay phone," at his store.  There was a booth with no phone.  All of a sudden, he grabs a phone from his drawer and walks over to the phone booth to plug it in.  I still didn't know how to use it because there's a special code you have to use prior to your international phone call.  But after figuring it out, it was so nice to hear a familiar voice and to let my family know that I made it to Indonesia safely. 

Here's the phone booth:

It can get expensive to constantly call back home through the phone booth.  It's much cheaper to buy a phone instead  However, once again, I wouldn't have been able to do it alone! My Indonesian friend had to help me purchase a phone and add minutes.  It was too confusing.

The phone I bought was the cheapest on the market for a mere $24.00 ...Then, I paid for pulsa minutes.  They register your phone number and put a card inside of the phone for it to begin working.  My phone wouldn't work though and it took me all night to figure it out.  A friend said to try "011" and it worked.  I could finally call home.  But within 5 minutes, my "pulsa" ran out and I could not call my family once again.  Fortunately, I have a video phone at home, which is the only phone that works because it does not eat my minutes.

I am happy to say now, after the interesting challenges that I've encountered, that I can communicate with family and have a way to get in touch with friends here too.  My phone works and I now know where to go if I need to make a phone call.

For those of you visiting Indonesia, you can use a phone booth or purchase a phone, depending on your stay here.  I would recommend purchasing a cheap cell phone.  You can sell it afterward and it costs less in the end to use as a means of communication.  It may just take a while to figure out!  Good luck.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Arriving in Salatiga, Indonesia

After staying in Yogyakarta for the night, it was time to leave the hotel for my next destination.  As I waited outside of the airport, taxi driver's constantly asked if I needed a ride, but I politely smiled and said "no thanks." I had a ride and was eventually greeted by a friendly face from the school.  Thank goodness!

It was a bumpy, two hour ride to Salatiga.  It was also extremely hot outside.  Extremely.  In fact, I had already consumed 5 bottles of water and it still wasn't enough. 

Once we arrived at the school's guest house, I had a chance to relax.  Here's my lovely room. I actually had a room to myself.

I desperately wanted to call my family too, which came with a set of interesting challenges.   I had a chance to walk around the neighborhood in the evening and met some of my classmates too.  I was already having a blast and was completely intrigued by my interesting surroundings.

The sights and sounds of Indonesia are very different from Hawaii.  There's so much I still have to learn about my surroundings.  The first time I saw a baby on a motorcycle, my mouth dropped. At times, I see entire families on a single motorcycle.  It still amazes me.

I'm still getting used to Indonesia, a place I'm quickly falling in love with.  It's a beautiful country and I hope to explore even more of the region. 

Landing in Jakarta and the Hyatt in Yogya

I'm finally in Indonesia!  It took three long days for me to arrive here.  It has been an amazing adventure and an experience I will never forget.

From Hawaii, I spent a night in Japan, then flew to Jakarta the following day.  The plane was empty and I was unsure of what to expect once I landed.  In many ways I was terrified, but I was also excited and ready to begin my new adventure.  After landing, it was complete madness and chaos at the airport.

I waited for almost an hour in line with several hundred people.  Fortunately, the line I stood in moved the quickest.  I asked an Australian man nearby, "Is this where we wait?"  We were both confused. It was extremely hot and you could smell burning incense. I noticed people being stopped and interviewed.  I had wondered, "Will I make it to my next flight?"

I went through immigration without a problem.  I picked the right line. I noticed the computer stated "no threat," as the immigration officer returned my passport.  Afterward, it was time to grab my bags.  I'm glad others knew where I should go because I was lost.   I dragged my two heavy bags and felt completely paranoid about receiving any help, but eventually had to give in.

I grabbed my bags and exited the terminal when I noticed a row of money changes in front of me.  They all began to yell to compete for my business.  I quickly scanned the booths for the best rates, as they all started to hold up signs and yell to attract my attention.  I decided to go to the last one with the best rate. It was too funny.

It was overwhelming at the airport and it is not easy to navigate either.  I was completely lost, but a young man helped me find my way.   I tried to refuse his help, but he knew I was lost and wouldn't leave.  In the end, everything worked out and I realized things would be fine.  Throughout my travels, I felt as if someone was always with me.  I had many people along the way who made sure I would be okay from the beginning. 

From Jakarta, I had to fly to Yogyakarta.  There were less and less foreigners. I started to feel lost.  I could barely understand anyone's English. When we landed in Yogya, we didn't have a hard landing, but the aircraft was bouncing like I have never experienced.  It made me laugh.

Once I arrived in Yogyakarta, it was madness once again.  Taxi driver's want to take you to your next stop, but fortunately I booked a hotel with the Hyatt and a taxi.  It made life much easier.

The Hyatt in Yogyakarta is incredible!  Here are some photos from my stay.  It's a 5 star hotel and it only cost $99 for the night.  The service was incredible!  The food excellent.

Friday, June 11, 2010

In Transit in Japan

From Hawaii, it takes nearly two days to get to Indonesia.  Typically, you'll have to stop in Japan because there are no direct flights.  I knew it would be a long few days, but it was completely worth it.

I went on JALWAYS and sat upstairs in a double decker plane.  It was really hot upstairs!  There was a lot of great food though.  I had pasta with a salad and a jello dessert.  Later, we were given soba noodles as a snack.  Everyone had their own TV screen and could watch countless movies or tv shows of choice.

Since I had to transit in Japan, I was put into a free hotel. I thought I would be in a dump since it was free, but I was wrong.  There were a number of restaurants, as well as a 24 hour convenience store.  I walked outside of the hotel and enjoyed the nice cold air outside.

 I wish I could stopped in Tokyo, but I was too tired from not sleeping the night before.  But at least I had a chance to relax and call family back home.

The phones in Japan can be quite confusing.  Just remember, the green phones are for domestic calls, while the white or gray are for international phone calls.  Oftentimes, you also need to purchase a phone card to call home.

I love the drinks and food in Japan too! It was nice to indulge.

When it was finally time to check out, I'm glad I left the hotel early.  There were long lines and a lot of chaos!  I was ready to begin my adventure into new territory.

If you are transiting in Japan, be at the airport early or else you may regret it!  I guarantee you won't be bored  either because there's so much Narita Airport has to offer.


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