Monkey Forest: Bananas, Monkeys, and Fear

Ubud Monkey Forest!!!

Going to the monkey forest was something that I had been looking forward to since before my trip. I absolutely love monkeys! I think they are so funny and cute and weird. Sam told me about the monkey forest, and I searched the hashtag on instagram, and was ready to meet some monkeys! We went to the monkey forest on Sunday, in the afternoon because we read that the monkeys are less aggressive later in the day, because they aren’t as hungry. Sam and I went alone, because when Vriz was little, she went to the monkey forest with her family, and had some bread with her, and was attacked by a monkey that stole her bread so she is now, understandably, quite afraid of them! Sam was hesitant too and pretty nervous, but she knew how much I wanted to go, so she pushed through it. Thanks, Sam!!

Our bungalow was on the same road as the monkey forest, so we walked down to it. It was so hot! I was dripping sweat the whole way there. When we got to the entrance, we bought tickets and went it. The moment we entered the forest and started walking down the path, there were monkeys everywhere! On the ground, on the ledge at the edge of the path, up above in the trees, on the fences, monkeys were everywhere. There were big monkeys, baby monkeys, scary ish monkeys, (cue the postcard song by BNL). I was in heaven!! I saw a little cart where they were selling bananas to feed the monkeys, but Sam seemed a little nervous so we waited on that and just walked around. I walked up to some monkeys that were on the ground and took some pictures. Sam said she felt really nervous being completely open so she went to sit down so her back was to a tree… not super helpful as the monkeys were in the trees to, don’t you think?

I saw a little monkey sitting on a very large rock, and another one playing in the drinking fountain right next to it. The monkey was trying to get water out of the faucet, which was turned off. Now, Priscilla does this at home. She will lick the kitchen faucet until me or L turn it on, and the she drinks the water. I thought I would help the monkey out and turn on the faucet. I quietly approached, reached for the handle, pressed it down, and the water turned on. I think I startled the monkey because it turned around really quickly and gave me a really scary look and showed its teeth. In my head I was like ‘oh s***’ BUT I kept my cool and slowly backed away. Then the monkey helped itself to some water. You’re welcome, bro.

I went to sit by Sam and we just sat and watched the monkeys in that area for a while, and then got up to walk around. The forest is quite large and there is a lot to see and a lot of monkeys to photograph. Some of them are so sassy looking and some even pose for pictures. Sam took one picture of a monkey that saw us coming and flattened itself onto its stomach and started rolling around! We also saw a mama monkey, eating some corn, with her baby hanging on to her tummy. Adorable!!

After walking around and taking a lot of pictures, we came across another banana stand. They were selling a small bunch of bananas for 20k IDR, and a large bunch for 50K IDR. I got a small bunch and there was a monkey guy that was going to help me attract monkeys. He asked if I wanted a big monkey or a small… I was a little nervous, so I said small. We walked away from the stand and had me put my back to the trees, and held a banana over my shoulder. All of the sudden, I realized how nervous I was! The only monkey I’ve ever had on me was this tiny little thing, on a leash, in Play Del Carmen, Mexico. A monkey approached, grabbed my shirt and hopped right up onto my shoulder. I was surprised at how light she was! She took the banana, and began to peel and it eat. She made some really lovely eating sounds right in my ear. The guy offered her another banana, and with one hand on my head, she leaned out and grabbed it. I offered for Sam to try the next banana, but she was too nervous, so instead, she handed the next banana to the monkey. It was great! The monkey jumped down, and another took her place and snacked on some bananas until they were gone. We thanked the monkey guy and went on to explore.

We saw a beautiful temple, over run by monkeys, and I had my next near death monkey encounter. Ok, maybe that’s a little dramatic, I’m sure my mom would say so (like the time I called her and told her the house was on fire, but really the oven was just smoking a little). We were going down some stairs to see the front of the temple, and there was a cool looking monkey sitting on the edge of the building. Sam and I took some pictures, and I was just looking at him. Apparently, I was looking for too long, too closely and with too much eye contact because the monkey kind of screeched, bore his teeth and smacked the side of the building. I don’t know what happened after that because I ran away pretty quickly. I just think you’re cool man, no need to be so angry.

After that, we took some pictures, imagine that, and I told Sam that she should try to feed a monkey. She was really resistant and didn’t want to. I said ‘Sam, this whole trip you have been telling me to get out of my comfort zone. And I have gone out of my comfort zone so many times, you can hold a monkey!’ She looked at me, shrugged, admitted that I was right and said ok! Yessss, I was so excited!!! We went back to the monkey guy and bought another bunch of bananas. Sam really wanted a little one so we walked over to where some little ones were. The little monkeys all ran away, and a medium sized monkey jumped up onto Sam’s shoulder, took the monkey and ran away. Sam’s face in this moment was pretty priceless. Round two: A monkey jumped up, grabbed Sam’s boob, then the banana and hung out for a bit. When it was done it put some of the banana in it’s mouth and ran away. But instead of just jumping down, it jumped on top of Sam’s head, and then ran away. I got an epic picture of the monkey on her head. After this, Sam was done and said I could have the rest of the bananas. I wasn’t going to turn down having more monkeys climb all over me! This time, the guide said I should try a big monkey. Sureeeee.

We went over to this little bridge, where a big bro monkey was sitting. The guide offered the banana, but he didn’t seem into it. A smaller monkey jumped up and took the banana, and left. Now the big guy wanted some so he walked over to me, grabbed the back of my shirt and climbed up. He was much heavier but still very graceful! Luckily, I couldn’t see what was happening, but he had giant fangs! I saw in a picture Sam took later that night and was like oh my god that thing was on my head he could have eaten me! But it was fine, and I was out of bananas. Sam and I stood and talked with the monkey guy for a while. Then, all of the sudden, this little monkey jumped up onto my shoulder, put his arm around my head and laid his head on my head. It was so cute and I didn’t even lure him with a banana. He just kept looking up, then resting his head on mine, sticking his leg out to pose, and being cute. He was my little buddy. This little monkey stayed on me for quite a bit, considering he wasn’t getting any food. But eventually, he hopped down, and we left the forest.

All in all, we had a great experience. I got to hang out with a bunch of monkeys, and Sam, who was afraid at the beginning, ended up having a pretty good time! Plus we go some awesome pictures, which is the only reason why we do things now a days, isn’t it? 😉

 

Saturday in Bali: Shopping, Beaching, and Hawkers

Saturday morning, we enjoyed (*kind of) the free breakfast that our hotel offered. The menu was very basic, fried rice, fruit, eggs and toast, jaffle (like toast with filling) and some other things. I ordered some banana pancake type thing, and everyone else got the fried rice. My pancake thing was ok. The pancake was thin and chewy, green, warm, had bananas, palm sugar syrup and coconut shreds on top. The fried rice looked pretty generic and as lacking salt. So, this was now two iffy meals in a row in Bali.

The plan for the day was to go back to Denpasar to the silver shop, where Vriz forgot her jacket, and then go to a souvenir shop, then relax on the beach. We drove down to the shop, and stopped at some others along the way, because I wanted to get a long silver necklace to put my pendants on, but didn’t have any luck. People were either trying to charge too much, or they didn’t have anything long enough.

We did some shopping, and headed to the beach. At the souvenir shop, I bought a beautiful, huge Balinese fan to hang on our wall, a little Balinese fan, some gifts for other people, a new batik bag, and some really awesome ‘Aladin Pants’ in purple. Sam bought some of the pants too, but it red. I was skeptical but it turns out they are the most comfortable thing I’ve ever worn. There were so many awesome souvenirs to buy, but I tried to be good and save some money for the next trip, to Jogja, where Sam says I will be able to get some really cool things. I was surprised at how cheap everything was, which seems to be a theme for this trip!

Next up was lunch. We didn’t really want to have another sub par meal, so Vriz wanted to go somewhere that she knew was good. Where did she choose? Drumroll please… MCDONALDS!!! So, in Indonesia, McDonalds is a fancy fancy place. You tell people you are going to McDonald’s and it’s like ohhhhh!! We pulled up, and there was a Coldstone and a Starbucks right next door! Was I going to get coffee or ice cream? or both!

Walking into the McDonalds was kind of a trippy experience! It was clean and pretty fancy! And there was stuff on the menu that we don’t have in the US, like KFC style friend chicken, rice, and different desserts. McDonald’s usually doesn’t sit too well in my stomach, so I just got some rice, and a McChicken mean with fries and Sprite. Vriz was so excited to be at McDonalds and honestly, Sam was too! I don’t think I have ever actually seen her eat McDonalds before… Anyway. We ate lunch and honestly, that meal may have been the highlight of Vriz’s trip! We finished up and headed over to Starbucks where I ordered a tall green tea frapp, all by myself. #Skills. We hit the bathroom and were off to the beach.

We got to the beach and bargained with a stick thin, Indonesian surfer dude, whose swim shorts were hanging dangerously low, for one lounge chair and an umbrella. It was so hot and the sun was burning full strength, so I actually put on sunscreen! Amazing right? Most people know that I like to just burn once and then get tan… but I didn’t want to spend the rest of my time in Bali, burned. Plus, L isn’t here to lather me up with aloe post burn. While we were lathering up, the hawkers began. There are a ton of people on the beach selling things to tourists; sunglasses, ice cream, bracelets, pedicures, massages, speakers, selfie sticks, cotton candy… just about everything! I was sitting on the end of the chair, looking out at the water, when Sam said ‘Caitlin… don’t turn around, but there is a woman selling sparkly sarongs right next to you.’ Um, hello.. SPARKLY SARONGS?? Of course, I turned around and saw this old Indonesian lady holding a beautiful white and light blue sarong, with silver sequins. Oh hell yes I’m buying one!! She had a really big bag, so I began to look. They were so soft and big! Sam originally told me not to look, because at the souvenir shop I had just purchased myself a sarong, but when I put it on the beach, realized that it was super small. The woman offered me 1 sarong for 100k, which was quite a bit more than I spent on the one I bought previously. I was choosing between two, when she offered both for 150k. Sam still thought it as a bit much, and somehow got the lady to give us 3 for 200k! So I got 2, and Sam got one. I chose the original blue and white one that I first saw, and a black one with silver sequins and multi colored patterns. We thanked the woman, and she then offered me a massage, which I declined. Later, there was a young, french couple that was next to us, and they seemed to be struggling to tell the hawkers to back off. A different sarong lady approached them, and the woman bought 1 grey and white sarong, with no sequins, and a second one, for 300k. Perks of being with people who speak Indonesian and can bargain!!

I was really glad to be with Vriz and Sam, because to the other tourists that were on the beach, the hawkers were invasive and relentless. They will not leave you alone even if you say no thank you a million times, and if they see you buy one thing, they all kind of swarm you at once. The offer pedicures, and just jump in and start giving you one before you can say no, or offer you a massage and touch your shoulders.. At one point, while Sam and Vriz were down by the water, I saw a woman with a baby and a little girl probably around 10, being pretty much attacked by hawkers. The little girl was getting her hair braided, and a bracelet sales person and a foot massager and a pedicure person, just swarmed her. She kept saying ‘no, please, I just want to relax and enjoy the beach, please’ and seemed really stressed. They even kept bothering her while she was nursing the baby. I felt so bad! So when Sam came back up from the beach, I told her what was happening, so she went over to the hawkers and told them, politely, that the woman said no and that she was nursing and to leave her alone. The hawkers packed up their things, ridiculously slowly, and left. The woman was extremely grateful!

BUT, SPARKLY SARONGS FOR THE WIN!!!!

At this point, I had my sarong, had been sitting in the sun, watching uncoordinated people getting surf lessons, and was ready to swim! The waves were beautiful, the sun was hot, so Sam and I walked down to the beach. Sam didn’t get in initially, because she has this really intense fear of being eaten by a shark, so I went in alone. I have never in my life been in water this warm! It felt soooo good. The water was crystal clear and the waves were perfect for wave jumping, so I waded out farther, dove under big waves, until I was far enough out to just float over the big ones. It was so much fun! While swimming, I was really appreciating my short hair, because when it is long and in a messy bun, and then you add salt water and crazy waves, you end up with a lovely birds nest type knot hair ball to try to detangle when you’re done. I loved that I didn’t have to worry about my hair!!

I bobbed around in the waves for a while, and saw Sam walking back toward our stuff. I figured she was hot and done watching. But a little while later, she came back down the beach and got in the water with me!! We swam for a bit and she went back up. I am a water baby, so I stayed in.

When it was time to get out, I went back and grabbed my stuff. We sat on the beach and dried off a little. I saw a woman sitting on a chair in front of us, getting a massage/scrub down from one of the people selling foot massages. I saw the woman using a nasty sponge to scrub down the other woman’s legs and feet, and was immediately glad that I didn’t get one. How many nasty, sweaty people has that sponge cleaned off?! I mean, she only had one sponge and you just know that it is not cleaned or sanitized in between people. EWW. Sam and I were so grossed out! Anyway, we packed and headed back to Ubud for dinner. When we got back to our hotel, we decided we wanted to swim in the pool for a bit. Sam, Vriz and I played in the pool for quite a while. The water even in the pool was really warm! I was in water baby heaven for sure!

We got out, showered, and headed to a fancy restaurant that was across from our hotel, for dinner. Sam and I had mie goreng  (Fried noodles), and Vriz had nasi goreng (fried rice). Again, the food was ok, but everything I had in Malang up to this point was way better. Except, we did get some bread and greek garlic dip for an appetizer and the bread was so crispy and delicious.

After dinner, we walked around the town for a little, and then headed back to the room for bed. The sun really wears you out! The next day, we had a lot of stuff planned, and I fell asleep pretty quickly, while staring at the ceiling watching a lizard run around.

I apologize if some pictures are doubled.. it was hard to keep track of what driving around picture was what day and where 😛

 

Turtle Island: Sea Turtles, Babies, and Snack Time

When we were researching things to do in Bali, I found a place on Turtle Island where you can hold the sea turtles and take pictures with them. I was so excited to hold a turtle!! But when we pulled up to the place that the GPS sent us, we were at a Turtle Conservation and Education Center, and we seemed to be the only people there. I was a little skeptical, but open to the experience! We entered the center, which was still outside, and saw a giant pool with filthy water and probably 10 large sea turtles. I was a little mortified and worried about their health, but the guide told us they were getting ready to do a water change today. I was then concerned that these turtles would live out the rest of their lives in this small pool, never to swim freely again, but the guide explained to us that at this center, their main goal was rehabilitation and release. All of the turtles in the pool were sick or injured in some way, and had been taken in to heal/recover, and would be released into the ocean when they recovered. I felt so relieved! The turtles were amazing and beautiful. They all had different markings on their shells and obvious personalities. It was great. Next up was seeing the babies!

We walked over to a different pavilion and saw rows and rows of smaller tanks. I felt like a little kid, and ran over to the little tanks and put my face really close to the water. The babies were so cute!! There were little tiny babies and then a tank full of teenagers. I was in heaven. I wanted to hold one, and Sam told the guide that we were originally trying to get to the place where you can take pictures with them, and he told us that turtles like this were protected and it was really unsafe for them to be picked up and held. This mostly applied to the larger turtles, but because the new babies were going to be released into the wild, they didn’t let people hold them. I was disappointed, but glad that we didn’t go to the other place, because I would never want to do something that would not be safe for a turtle. I was totally content just learning about them and watching them swim around.

We moved on to some more turtles, and saw big turtles in the smaller pools, alone. These were sick and injured turtles that needed special care and attention. There was one that they think was stuck in a boat propellor, and the bottom of his shell was jagged and torn, some chunks missing, and he was completely missing his right front leg. It was very sad to see, but the guide was optimistic that he would be able to be released some day. Another turtle we saw had a skin condition and had maggots crawling on him, but was also being treated. We even saw a beautiful albino turtle, but it seemed to be having a rough day and was flopping around a lot in the water so I didn’t get a very good picture. Turtles have always been so magnificent to me, and I in some ways, feel really connected to them. I felt a deep sense of respect and admiration and love for these creatures.  Next up was feeding some turtles! I didnt get to hold any, but feeding them was so fun. There was a variety of breeds in the pool that we could feed, but some of them I recognized as red-eared sliders, which was the kind of turtle that I had when I was little. The guide gave Vriz and I some greens to feed them, and we went to town! The turtles were so excited and climbing all over each other to get the food. They would bite down on the stem of the green with such excitement, you could hear a pretty loud crunch. It was adorable. I walked around and tried to give everyone a bite, especially the little guys that were getting trampled. It was great!!

This was the end of the little tour, so I went to look at souvenirs. They had quite a few turtle things, but I chose a turtle carving that has a removable shell that is made from a coconut, and a little wooden keychain! Afterward, we saw a sign that said ‘adopt a turtle’ where you can pay for a little baby, ‘adopt’ it, and then take it out and set it free into the ocean. Unfortunately, none of the babies were ready to be freed yet, so I guess I’ll be making another trip here, someday. We headed out, and saw the first big pool being drained and prepped for cleaning. Yay!! You never really know with places like this, so I was relieved to see the dirty tank being cleaned. And that was it! The end of Turtle Island. It was definitely a highlight of the Bali trip, and my trip as a whole!!

 

Do Some Traveling While You Travel: Transit, Hotels, Friday

We have returned from our 4 night trip to the island of Bali, which was just a quick 40 minute plane ride away! Well, 15 minute bike trip to the bus terminal, 2 hour bus ride, 10 minute cab ride to airport and then a 40 minute flight. We left Thursday night and returned Monday early evening.

When we got to the bus terminal in Malang, we parked our motorcycles in this huge parking lot that was filled with hundreds of bikes. We got on the bus first, and chose the seats in the very front. Sam and I on one side and Vriz on the other. The bus and the terminal were not much different than they are in the US. The bus had comfortable seats, not a lot of leg room, and had that weird, rubbery, bus smell. The biggest difference that I noticed? The hawkers. They come on the bus, and sell things to the passengers, before you leave. Then, if you stop at a stop, they will get on the bus, sell, then get off at the next stop. Seems fine, in theory. Except these people are the most aggressive sales people I’ve ever seen. They will be selling a variety of things; gloves, socks, beverages, snacks, stickers, etc. They don’t just stop by ask if you want something and then leave, or walk by and wait for someone to wave their hand, nope… they will set the product on your lap and walk away, then come around and pick up the product or their money, or kneel on an empty seat and hang the snack inches from your face, talk about what they are selling very loudly, and if you make the mistake of making eye contact with one of them, you will earn yourself an extra 30 seconds of selling. It is intense. But, once the bus starts moving, they all get off and you can finish your trip in peace. That is, until you get off of the bus and have to fight off taxi huskers that follow you around trying to get you to take a taxi.

Getting a taxi in Indonesia is much different than in the US. In the US, and even Canada, from my experience, there is a set rate and a meter to track your cost, and that’s that. Here, every hawker will be offering different price fare, meaning you have to bargain for a ride. Luckily, Vriz and Sam are both very good at bargaining so I think we got some good prices for our taxis. Bargaining for a taxi is an art form! Lot’s of fake walking away, acting super nonchalant about the whole thing, and not really making eye contact until you seal the deal. I wish I spoke Indonesian in these bargaining moment, so I could hear how it’s done! But anyway, we got a taxi to take us from the bus terminal to the airport (this taxi just had a meter), which was a pretty short ride (even though we come to find out after the trip, that the taxi driver took us the long way to rack up our meter).

We got to the airport, and boarded our flight to Bali! We were crammed into the three seats in the very back row, and Sam and I had -1 foot of leg room, but luckily it was a short flight. And of course, Sam fell asleep on me for part of it. Noticing a trend here? But, she didn’t sleep for long because as soon as we boarded, we were de-boarding and finally in Bali! I didn’t get many pictures from the first night, because we arrived at night and didn’t do much. We picked up our rental car, which was about $15USD a day, and went to find our hotel.

When we got to the hotel and tried to check in, the desk attendant informed us that the AC was broken in our room, which was a ‘family room’ for 3 people, and that they booked us instead, 2 separate rooms. One room had a kind size bed in it, so we all just slept in that one room. We didn’t even go into the second room, and the hotel still made us pay for the 2 rooms, even though it was their fault that we were moved, and they never gave us a call to inform us that our room wasn’t available anymore. The room we were in was fine, and we only stayed there for one night. We got some dinner, and headed to bed.

The next morning, we were heading from Denpasar, where we stayed and flew into, to Ubud, which is where we would be the rest of the trip. Bali is so different from Java, I was surprised! I knew it would be different, but didn’t realize that the landscape, architecture, etc, would be completely different. Bali is primarily Hindu, so there were a lot of beautiful temples and offerings every where you looked. There is no way to describe it, and because for most of the trip, I only took pictures while we were driving around, there are only a few pictures. Guess you will have to go to Bali and see for yourself!

Our first stop was the Alleyway Cafe, for breakfast. This cafe was adorable! It was super hipster-y. Sam and I both had a breakfast called ‘avocado smash’ which was a slice of sourdough bread with smashed avocado, two poached eggs, a little sprinkling of cheese, and a roasted tomato on the side. To drink, I had fresh pineapple and strawberry juice, blended together, and Sam had an espresso. The food was amazing! It wasn’t Indonesian, but the quality and taste of the food made up for that.

Next up we went to a silver shop. The shop was located next to a beautiful temple and a little orphanage. We walked in and started looking at all of the beautiful (and real) jewelry. I could barely focus on the jewelry though because I was so hot! I have never in my life, sweat so much like I did in Bali. Turns out that Malang, where Sam lives, is way cooler than a lot of parts of Indonesia because it is in the foothills of large mountains. Man, Bali was a different kind of hot! I had sweat pouring down my face and into my eyes. Luckily, I had a paper fan that I got in Malang, and cooled off enough to look at some jewelry. The silver was beautiful! There were hundreds of rings, necklaces, pendants, earrings, everything! The shelves were lined with a red material, and everything was just sitting freely on the shelves. The shop was a little dark, and when we took our shoes off before entering, the tile felt cool on the bottom of my feet. The whole place had an antique-ish kind of feel. We looked around, tried things on, for the better part of an hour, or longer. Sam and I both got rings, I got two beautiful pendants, and Sam got a beautiful pair of earrings.

After the silver shop, we went to *drumroll, please* TURTLE ISLAND!!!!!! Sounds perfect for me, right? Right!! I’m not going to write about it here, because it deserves a post all to itself. Keep an eye out!!

Then it was time to go get some dinner. We drove to have dinner on the beach, and watch the sunset. The beach restaurant we went to was of course, a seafood place. Upon entering the restaurant, I was like ohhh cool view. And then we went to our seat, which was in the sand, right on the water. Incredible! It was a great view.

At this restaurant, the food was admittedly, not bad but not amazing, so I won’t spend too much time on it. But the fresh coconut that I had to drink was the best that I’ve ever had, and the view of the water while the sun was setting was incredible. Once the sun was setting, there was a lot of cloud cover, so we left before it was dark, but I did get some amazing pictures. Plus, this was my first time being on a beach since I arrived in Indonesia, so I was sooo happy just to put my feet in the water. The water, by the way, was the warmest water on a beach that I have ever felt! It was great.

It was now time to drive to Ubud to find our hotel, which would be our home for the next 3 nights. We drove around for a quite a while, and finally found the entrance, marked by a tiny, worn out sign, behind a giant ‘LEMONADE’ restaurant sign. We parked the car on the street, pretty far away, and walked to the hotel. It was dark now so I didn’t get very many pictures, but Ubud was incredible! We were on a narrow, one way street that was lined with really cool shops and restaurants. Ubud is kind of the traiditonal arts and crafts town of Bali, which you could really tell if you peaked into some of the shops. It was really cool to see how much of an impact tourism has on a town. Ubud is a tourist destination, and is very well developed, compared to a lot of the places I’ve been on this trip. Even on the drive to Ubud, the sides of the streets were lined with every kind of art you can imagine. Stone carving, wood carving, giant statues, paintings, quilts, everything!

We stayed at ‘Jati3 Bungalows’. Our bungalow was awesome! We walked in and saw the bathroom to the right, a big bed straight ahead, and a beautiful little porch area. There was then a staircase which led up to a really cool loft, with another bed, a little seating area with cushions and a little table, and a big window that overlooked the pool. The loft reminded me of the loft we had at our lake house growing up. The wooden railing, the creaking stairs (granted, the stairs weren’t a creaky old ladder, but the sound was the same), and being able to peek over and see what was going down below. Plus, I would finally have a bed to myself!! It was great. The only downside was that there was no AC, but there were two ceiling fans that did the job. I was warm, but not hot, and fell asleep easy. The bungalow was also home to about a million little lizards. They were scurrying around the walls and ceilings, which was creepy at first, but then pretty cool! The bathroom in the room was not as pictured on the website, but there was a toilet and a shower with hot water, so I was happy! I unpacked my clothes and headed to bed, excited for what the next day would bring.

 

Bromo: The Crazy Ride, Selfies, and Endless Wonder

BROMOOOOO.

I have to be honest and tell you guys that I have kind of been avoiding this post because well, I really am at a loss for words. Let’s start at the beginning of the exhausting, but life changing trip.

What is ‘Bromo’? Mount Bromo, is an active volcano in East Java. It is located in the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, and sits in the middle of a giant plain called ‘The Sea of Sand’, which has been a protected nature reserve since 1919. It is a really popular tourist attraction. Some people hike and travel to the park independently, but we took a jeep tour.

Our driver, picked us up at Sam’s house at midnight Wednesday night/Thursday morning. I didn’t know anything about Bromo, other than it was a volcano, and I had no idea why we would be picked up so early. Sam, Vriz, Carly (Sam’s friend, current Peace Crops Volunteer), and I, tried to sleep before the trip, but didn’t have much luck. We loaded up into the van, all bundled up (because it is cold in the mountains at that time of night), and headed out. The Jeep was this awesome neon blue color. I sat in the front and everyone else sat in the back. The back seats weren’t traditional seats, they were benches that faced inward, and in the center there was a sound system. Pretty cool!

We began the trip and before I knew it, we were driving straight up mountains. Our top speed was probably only 30mph, but most of the time we were crawling. The road was a thin, one way style road, and was incredibly bumpy and super curvy. There were curves that were harder than a full u-turn. The girls in the back fell asleep, or at least rested their heads, but I couldn’t rest up in the front seat because it was so bumpy and my seat was sitting straight up. It was a long and slightly terrifying ride; especially without a seatbelt, but the views were really cool. It was pitch black outside, but when we got up high enough, you could see all of the lights in the towns and villages below. It was really cool.

When we finally arrived at the park, our Jeep driver hooked us up with awesome prices, we paid for 3 local tickets and Vriz got in for free! We went up and parked, and got out to get some hot drinks and wait for the sunrise. That’s why you go so late at night!! So you can watch the sunrise over the mountains! Anyway, when we got out of the Jeep, it was a little chilly. Probably around 50-55 degrees. I was a little cold, but since i just came from Denver, right after the blizzard, 55 felt fine. The little tropical babies however, were whining non stop! They all had sweaters and coats, hats and were freezing. I felt badly for them, but was happy that I felt ok, and was grateful for the cool, as I have been boiling ever since I got off the plane. I couldn’t wait for it to warm up so we could stop talking about how cold it was! 😉 To help warm up, we went into one of the little stalls and got hot drinks. That’s when I had the energen! The milky, vanilla, oat drink. Sam, Vriz and Carly all had coffee, and we waited for sunrise. We walked around and Carly and I bought some souvenirs. I go an awesome, neon multi-colored winter hat, with a patch that says ‘G Bromo’, and also a really cool ‘Bromo’ sweater. I paid 15,000Rp for the hat and 80,000Rp for the sweater. That’s about $1 for the hat and about $6 for the sweater. Score!

It was time! We walked up to the sunrise view point, and waited among the sea of people. The sunrise was slow and wonderful. It was kind of stressful at first to be around so many people, but as time went on I became a little more comfortable. The colors of the sunrise were different than I had ever seen. The sky turned this beautiful aqua color, and the sun was bright, pure orange. There was one weird shaped cloud that blocked the actual sun for quite a while, so we were able to actually look and enjoy the sky longer.

After the sun was up, it was selfie-stick time!! We all took so many selfies, group pics, individual pics, landscape pics, it was great! The people started to clear out to head to their next destination within the park We were watching the sunset at the top of the view point, and when the people cleared out, we could go up to the edge, stand up on the ledge and peer over the railing at the view. When I ran up there and jumped up, I lost my words. The entire landscape opened up, and the day was so clear and beautiful, you could see everything. I could see Bromo, steaming away. It was the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen; it looked fake. We took a lot of pictures here, and finally went to go eat, then move on to the next site. This is when we had the pisang goreng (fried bananas).

We got in the jeep and headed to the next location, and made a couple stops at some view points on the way. The next actual stop was the sand sea. We went down, down, down the mountain, down to the sand sea. This landscape looked completely different from where we just were. We were surrounded by jungle on all sides, and were in front of a giant, inactive volcano. There were people on motorcycles zipping around in the sand. We took a lot of awesome pictures then headed up to the crater of Bromo. When we got close to the area where you start the hike, a bunch of guys on horses started folllowing the jeep. It was a funny thing to see. The guys were trying to sell us rides on the horses, up to the crater. Sam had done Bromo before, and said the hike sucked, because it’s all thick, black, volcanic sand, and its a really steep incline. We decided to take the horses.

Ok so real talk, I was the heaviest person on this trip, and I swear, the guys gave me the tiniest little pony to ride. Sam, Carly and Vriz’s horses looked like giants compared to mine. What the heck, man!! Poor pony.  I’ve only ever ridden a horse one other time, and I was probably 11, went with my dad, and my dad’s horse bit my horses tail and my horse freaked out, threw me off, and I vowed to not ride a horse again. But, the main thing I said I wanted to do on this trip, was get out of my comfort zone. I mean, flying here by myself, was way out of my comfort zone, so I figured I could ride a horse. Getting on was awkward! I had some tiny Indonesian man trying to help me, and I ended up flopping onto the poor things back, laying on my stomach. Somehow I mounted the horse, and we immediately started walking toward the crater. The horse and the saddle were both so tiny, with every step I thought I was going to fall off. I didn’t get many pictures of this ride, because I was holding on for dear life, but the ride up was pretty scary. There were steep inclines and declines, and a lot of other horse traffic. But somehow, we made it up! It was time to get off of the horse, and the guy that was leading mine, came around to the side and patted his shoulder. I was supposed to put all of my body weight on him, and be lifted off the horse. Um, so not happening, he was so tiny, probably smaller than L, so I just clutched my horse and said no! Carly was off of her horse, so I yelled for her to come help me. Carly is super tall and in shape so I felt fine having her help me instead of that tiny guy! I kind of plopped off of the horse, and landed on the ground. No one was squished. Success.

Now we got to climb 250 steps up to the crater. The steps were wet and covered in volcanic sand, but the scenery was spectacular. It looked like we were on a different planet. We took a break at all of the break points, and worked our way up to the crater. At the top of the stairs, you have to take a bigggg step up so you can walk over to the crater. I wont lie, I needed a little help up!

I never thought that I would be so nervous at the top of the crater. It was steaming and Carly and I both swear you could hear it churning deep down in the Earth. There was so much steam you couldn’t even see inside and the sulfur smell truly does smell like rotten eggs. Being up there made me so nervous. We took a few pictures and Carly and I were like OK LET’S GO. But Sam and Vriz were fine with staying up there. Maybe I was nervous because the volcano was sputtering not very long ago, and everything in my body was telling me to run away. As if I could outrun and eruption, even if one happened! It was very very cool, but I didn’t want to be up there any longer than I had to be, so we started the trip down the stairs and back to our horses.

We got on our horses and made the trek back. Toward the end, I hear Vriz yelling ‘Carly!! Caitlin!! Samantha!!’ at the top of her lungs. I look over, and the guy leading the horse is sprinting alongside her horse, the horse running! ‘I’M RUNNING!!!!’ Vriz yelled. I turned around, laughing, to see Carly and Sam were laughing soon. The horse was going so fast!! ‘I’M GOING TO DIE SOON!!!’ was the next yell that came from Vriz. It was so funny!! I’m laughing now just writing about it. We finally got back to the jeeps, and Carly helped me off of my horse. We paid the guys and went to another view point, similar to the last one. We took some pictures and then continued our drive.

We were driving through the sand sea, which was all dark and sandy with no vegetation, and all of the sudden we entered the Savannah, which was plush, rich green. It was an instant change from desert to savannah. We drove a little farther and pulled up to the ‘Teletubby’ hills. They were beautfil hills, similar to the ones in Teletubbies, and we took some amazing pictures.

We were exhausted and it was time to go back. The drive home was quiet, the girls in the back were sleeping, but I stayed awake until my phone storage was full, taking pictures. We drove down the  mountain and past some amazing farm lands. The crops were on the side of the mountain, and we so perfectly planted, it looked like someone laid a giant quilt along the mountain. We drove through small villages, forests, and more villages, until I finally filled up my memory and went to sleep.

Seeing this national park, and how beautiful it was, invoked so many thoughts and feelings. I felt a childlike sense of wonder that I have only experienced one other time, at the top of Crowder’s Mountain in North Carolina. I felt amazed, deeply grateful, and spiritually connected to the Earth. I felt a deep sense of peace and stillness within me that I have trouble finding on my own. On the way back, I was thinking about how much of the Earth I just saw. I was thinking ‘wow, that was so amazing and so big and wondrous’, but in reality, that entire park, containing the most beautiful landscape I have ever seen in my life, is smaller than a dime on a world map. How can I have traveled this far, and seen so much, and still, only be seeing so little of what’s out there? I always said before that I wanted to travel… but I never really understood what that meant. If I didn’t have full blown wanderlust before, I absolutely do now.

 

 

Makanan: Because You Know I’m All About That Food, ‘Bout that food

Since I’m not doing a recap of the day post anymore, I decided to do a post dedicated to the amazing food that I have been eating! Most of you know, I have some pretty ridiculous and annoying stomach problems. I love spicy food, but usually it triggers heart burn that feels like what I imagine the center of the Earth is like. Or, I eat something totally safe an normal, like a salad, and feel so nauseated that I want to die. I was super nervous to come to Indonesia because of my screwed up tummy, and my irrational fear of getting sick, because I knew I would be eating all new types of foods, and many foods that have been sitting out for a while, or prepared in a new/different way, etc. I am so paranoid about getting food poisoning, that I wont even order meat at restaurants in the US, let alone eat meat in a developing country. Sometimes I even throw yogurt away that I just bought at the store, if I think it took me too long to get home.

Well, I am so so so happy to report, that other than the first couple of days I was here, my stomach has been great!! I have been tolerating the food perfectly (don’t worry, I’m knocking on wood), and have been super brave and venturing out of my comfort zone with food!

Let’s see what I’ve been eating!!!

  • You all know about Sari Roti, the little filled sandwiches. still a fave.
  • Nasi Pecel: rice with veggies and a spicy peanut sauce. Had it yesterday for breakfast with greens, a friend egg, tempeh, and these crispy things called kerupuk. So gooddddddd
  • Tahu Telor: which is kind of like tofu and egg, with rice and a peanut sauce.
  • Ayam Remuk: Which is fried chicken, it’s not breaded, just spiced really amazingly and fried. Basically, they beat the s*** out of the chicken, and then flash fry it. You can even eat the small bones! I tried a couple. It was weird to eat bones but they were really crunchy. I also ate the liver from my chicken. I was hesitant at first, but I did it for Poppy. We were supposed to have the fried duck, but they were sold out. We will definitely go back for the duck! I’ve heard it’s mom’s favorite!!
  • Bubur Ayam: Chicken porridge! Rice porridge with chicken served with kerupuk. So tasty. Had this for breakfast one morning! Very interesting to have such savory, dinner type foods for breakfast.
  • Bakso: Meatballs!! The bakso guy rides his bike down the neighborhoods, and bangs on the side of his card. Then you go out and flag him down, and make your own soup type deal. The meatballs are beef mixed with flour, so they are a way different texture than any meatball I’ve ever had. But I chose meatballs, noodles, tofu, siomay, which kind of like a dumpling, and goreng, which is a fried wonton type thing filled with meat. Then you add broth, chives, and a sweet sauce. Yum!! Super cheap and also considered a snack and not a meal. Sam loves broth!
  • Getuk: A traditional Javanese snack made from cassava. It is soft, sweet and has a subtle flavor, and is served with shredded coconut. We also got this from a guy selling in the neighborhood.
  • Terang Bulan (Translation: Bright Moon): Is a really awesome dessert. It is like a super thick pancake, that is made to order so when you get it, it’s steaming hot, and filled with chocolate. It is extremely buttery and kind of spongey. So good. I didn’t want to stop eating it!! But it is so rich and buttery that I just could not. Mmmm. mm. MM. So good.
  • Martabak: A crispy egg thing? Think like a flat egg roll with curried eggs and meat inside.
  • Durian: Will have it’s own post.
  • Nasi Campur: Mixed rice. Rice with whatever toppings you would like. I had Tempeh (imagine that), a spicy tempeh/potato hash type thing and shredded curry chicken. The chicken was soooo good. It was sweet and tangy and super good with the rice.
  • Yogurt: Little frozen yogurt sticks. These are interesting but delicious and really refreshing. They come in a variety of flavors and are really cheap. They are 500RP, which is about $0.04 each. You can buy them in huge quantities. I like the grape and the lychee flavor the best.
  • Pisang Goreng: Bananas, cut in half, breaded and deep friend. Need I say more?
  • Pete: Stinky beans. Not a fan!
  • Tempe: Tempeh! Fermented soy beans mmmm
  • Tahu: Tofu!
  • Jus Melon: Fresh Melon juice
  • Es Degan: A coconut drink with fresh coconut water, coconut flesh and a red liquid you add in for flavor. So fresh!
  • Mie Jogging: Chicken noodles (yummm)
  • Energen: A milky drink with cereal and oats and vitamins! So good and comforting. I tried the vanilla flavor. Will be bringing some home with me for sure.
  • Gula Asem, Kunyit Asem, Beras Kencur: Had 3 different traditional Javanese drinks. One was made with rice and was very sweet and kind of chalky, one made with tamarind which was sweet and hard to explain, and one with turmeric and palm sugar which was my favorite.

I love everything! I still have a lot of stuff to try and I can’t wait!! I turned down chicken feet today… but I think I’ll have to face those soon.

UMM: Blogging, Classes, and a Fun Round of ‘Ask Caitlin’

Hey y’all! I’m so sorry for leaving you hanging for so long! Turns out at that blogging takes a lot of emotional and mental energy! I have been going on so many crazy fun adventures, and have been completely pooped by bedtime and keep promising myself that I will post the next day. The other thing that has been different these past few days, is we haven’t gone to a cafe! We had a full day on Thursday and Friday, and yesterday (Saturday), we just hung out at home and I didn’t feel up to writing. So, here we are today, Sunday, just relaxin at home after a busy day in Batu. I decided that my blog posts are going to be a little different from here on out. I don’t think it is practical to blog about every day at this point. I am just going to kind of write and see what happens! I noticed with my other posts, being just retelling of the days events, don’t contain a lot of my actual thoughts about certain experiences and I want to do more of that. SO, welcome to blog post #5!!

On Tuesday and Thursday, I went to Univeristas Muhammadiyah Malang, which is the university where Sam teaches English-speaking. There is one class on Tuesday, and two classes on Thursday. First, lets talk about the university. The campus is absolutely gorgeous. When you approach it, you turn into the entrance and drive under a beautiful arch, and then the entire campus opens up. You go down a pretty steep hill so when you first turn in, you get a beautiful view of the campus. To the left, there is a gorgeous mosque, and a river that runs in front of it. Then, when you are entering campus, there is a huge courtyard that has a couple of fountains, and a cool sign with the university name.

Sam teaches in a classroom on the third floor in one of the buildings. Remember how I said in a previous post that I really enjoyed how buildings in Indonesia are really open? Well, this is how the campus buildings are. When you go up the stairs, you are still outside, as well as when you are in the ‘hallway’. The classroom itself is a pretty traditional classroom, minus the heat. It is so hot and stuffy, and there is just a tiny oscillating fan to cool it down, and because everyone must dress very conservatively on campus, I was baking. The first day I wore a skirt with leggings underneath, a long-sleeved shirt and a big scarf. The second day, I wore a maxi skirt with leggings underneath (because you can’t ride on the back of a scooter with a skirt on without exposing your entire leg), a tank top with a very long sweater over it, and a scarf. Sooo hot. For the most part, all of the girls in Sam’s class were wearing hijabs, and I really wonder how they tolerate the heat. Another thing about the girls; they are all so fashionable it is wild!!  Sam says they call themselves ‘hijabistas’, like ‘fashionistas’ but with hijabs, and it is totally true. They are all so trendy and adorable!

To start off class, Sam had everyone do a little group warm up to get everyone comfortable. They are not used to having guests in class! We then started the ‘Ask Caitlin’ section in which they were able to ask me whatever questions they wanted. I was anticipating questions about me, my life in the US, the cats… basic questions. I was definitely not prepared for what they asked! I was so impressed with their English, but more so the depth of their questions. I’m not going to put all of my responses on here, because a lot of it was about politics and I really do not feel up to posting my current political views on the internet but here are some of the questions!!

  1. Why is your skin so white?!  The students were so surprised by how white I am! Sam has quite the tan, and next to her I pretty much glow in the dark. This was not the first time that I had been asked this question on this trip!
  2. Why did you come to Indonesia? To visit Sam, she has lived here for so long and always talks about how beautiful it is!
  3. What was your first impression of Indonesia? HOT HOT HOT
  4. What do you think of all of the people wearing Hijabs? I have been exposed to this before, as there was a pretty large Muslim population where we lived in Michigan, plus it was really close to Dearborn which has an extremely large Muslim population,  and I really enjoy all of the different patterns and styles!
  5. Can you describe American Culture? This question really threw me! I’ve never had to explain our culture before it was really crazy!
  6. What is the general populations attitude toward Trump? Oh man.
  7. What is the attitude around the World Trade Center, post 9/11, and what is there now? *me: these are intense questions yeesh*
  8. You are recently married, right? *me: coool easy questions about my life!*
    Ok! So, in the US, what is the attitude toward people that get pregnant and have babies before marriage? *me: OMG*
  9. Sam: HOW MANY CATS DO YOU HAVE?! FOUR!!!!

Sam to the rescue with an easier question! I mean YEESH! These kids put me through the ringer! (BTW when I say kids, they are 18-19 year old kids, not kid kids.) I still cannot believe that those are the questions they asked! They are so smart!

The other part of class was a speaking activity. The students had to design an itinerary for me in groups, and then present it to the class, and at the end I chose the itinerary that I liked the best. They were all so good! And they were so shy about speaking in front of me, so they were all giggly and adorable, it was almost too much. BUT, the focus of the activity was using single-word modals. Have any of you every heard of a modal? Because I don’t think I have ever heard that word in my entire life! Single word modals are words like should, may, can, will, etc. Learning about modals really made me reflect on how we learn language. When you are little and you are learning your own language, you don’t learn really what words are, or how to conjugate verbs, or what a modal is, you just learn the language. Sure, in English class we learn about verbs, adverbs, conjunctions, grammar, and stuff like that, but we already can speak English before learning about this. But on the flip side, when we learn a foreign language, we learn all of this other stuff before we can even speak the language! Maybe that is why I have a hard time learning languages. I have always been taught to focus so much on conjugating verbs and just learning vocab, and never really learned how to speak the language. Interesting!!

I can’t wait for next week’s classes!