Monday, March 2, 2015

Feb 28 – A Day at Sea

We spent today cruising from the island of Bali to the island of Java.  Indonesia is made up of over 3000 islands of which more than 600 are inhabited.  Although Bali’s principal religion is Hindu, Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world.  Tomorrow we will be in Semarang and then Jakarta, the capital. 

As for today, we followed the regular sea day routine.

TOMORROW – Semarang, Java, Indonesia

March 1 – A Sea Day in Port

Semarang, Indonesia, is used as the gateway to Borobudur, the world’s largest Buddhist temple. Unlike the temples we have seen this week and on past journeys, Borobudur is built as a spiral with ever-decreasing diameters.  The temple is shaped like a flattened cone.  Carvings fill the walls and the top is full of stupas, the bell-shaped domes seen in temples in Thailand and Cambodia.  The steps leading to this spiral path are quite deep and can be difficult to climb, especially for the elderly passengers who filled about 20 buses for this shore excursion.  While the ramp which goes to the top does not appear steep, descending the “long and winding road” can be hard on the knees and legs. 

Getting to Borobudur from Semarang is a challenge in itself.  The temple is slightly less than 60 miles from the port, but the ride can take two or more hours.  The road surface is not good and the traffic is horrible.  When the cruise ship tours caravan to and from Borobudur, they have a police escort to make sure they get to and from the temple safely.  Sometimes the police direct the buses to go the wrong way – against traffic – to avoid congestion.  The port lecturer says that for many passengers, that is the most exciting part of the trip.

That’s all well and good, but we didn’t go to Borobudur today for several reasons.  The second reason is that it would have meant leaving the ship before dawn; as proof, dining room staff were delivering room service meals at 4:30 in the morning.  There was no way we were getting up that early because, [reason number 1], we had been here before. 

It must have been in 2009 when we visited Jon and his family.  We flew from Jakarta to Jogjakarta, a flight of about an hour to an hour and a half.  D was sick as a dog and spent most of the time in the hotel, but MA went to see the temple with the others.  When they climbed up, she sat down and was eventually interviewed by two school girls who were practicing their English.  As a “thank you,” the girls gave her a wooden carving of the temple which sits on the coffee table in our den.

We opted not to join Ken and Lois’s group tour of Semarang and stayed on the ship where we could relax, send email to tour guides and do some laundry.  An empty cruise ship is a delight because all of the essential services are still available but in limited supply.  There was, for example, no danger of starving even though the MDR was closed for lunch and only one side of the Lido buffet was available.  The burger bar and ice cream station were both fully manned – who could ask for anything more?

Ken and Lois were back in time for trivia, so it really was a sea day in port.

TOMORROW – Revisiting Jakarta

Mar 2 – Ken and Lois and D and MA’s Excellent Adventure

Jakarta is one of the world’s largest cities with a population over 23 million people.  The smog is like Los Angeles’s [auto pollution combined with wood smoke] and traffic congestion is a way of life.  We docked at the port of Tanjian Priok, a container port, since there is no passenger terminal.  HAL ran a shuttle to the closest shopping mall but estimated the one-way travel time as one hour.

Our plans were simple.  We wanted to get a car to take us to the Café Batavia in the Old Harbor area of the city.  We thought about just taking a Bluebird taxi because they have meters, but one of the waiters said his brother could take us.  This was an even better plan, we thought, because the driver would not try to gyp us especially when he knew that we would see his brother every day for the next 2 months.

We spent some time after breakfast trying to find two of the dining stewards.  We had a present for Mukti and Julianti’s new baby which we eventually left with Kadek because we could not find Mukti.  We also had money for Yuda, our dinner assistant, which he had returned with the request that we present it to his mother when she visited today.  We did eventually meet up so we could meet his mother, smile politely in different languages and pose for pictures.  Then it was time to go.

We met Lois and Ken outside our room and disembarked, finding Ricky the waiter with no difficulty.  He introduced us to his brother Denny and we started for the car.  Since personal vehicles were not allowed into the dock area, we had to walk about a third of a mile to the car where we were shown into the mini-mini-van and a new person climbed behind the wheel.  Ricky speaks excellent English; he told us his brother spoke limited English; and we discovered that the driver spoke no English.  We christened him Phred in honor of a Doonesbury character from the 1970s.

It was just as well that we had made these arrangements because there were no taxis at the port entrance.  Even if we had trudged all the way to the adjacent road, we would have been out of luck.

We knew that the ride would be long, so, when we had not reached Café Batavia in 90 minutes, we were not too worried.  By the time we hit the 2 hour mark at 12:30, we got nervous.  If it took 2 hours to get there and back, we would not have as leisurely a lunch as we had hoped.  Phred stopped so we could shop in a pedestrian mall at the Old Harbor, but we said “no.”  We saw the sign for the café right after that and followed the arrow toward lunch.

We never got there.  Phred turned again when he probably should have gone straight, but we had no way to tell him that he had made a mistake.  His English was limited to “Sorry, mister” which he said repeatedly to Ken who was riding in the front seat.  Although he stopped to ask for directions, he had no idea where he was or where he was going. He even tried to take us to Starbucks, KFC and a Chinese restaurant.  So we circled around Jakarta for another half hour until we decided to forget lunch.  It was already 1 o’clock and we were envisioning another 2 hours in the car.  We made it clear through sign language that we wanted to return to the ship.  Instead of taking the highways he had taken on the way in, Phred took back roads and had us home in 30 minutes including a gas and “comfort” stop!

As we were circling through downtown Jakarta, D had been texting Ricky who was home with his family.  We hated to ruin his one-day visit but thought he ought to know what was happening.  Even though it was not his fault, he accepted responsibility and told us not to pay the driver, that he would take care of it. There was a lot of back-and-forth, but we paid Phred 300000 rupiah – about 24 dollars – and waved him off.

As we were walking across the parking lot, Mukti called to us.  He brought Yulianti and the baby over for introductions and photos.  MA and Yulianti are Facebook friends, so she was glad to finally meet Mukti’s wife. 

Our Indonesian lunch turned out to be hamburgers from the burger bar.  We didn’t even have ice cream.  On the other hand, we have been laughing about our adventure all day, further proof that it is the bad guides and bad tours we remember most vividly.

TOMORROW -- A sea day at sea

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