January 26, 2012

Prambanan > Yogyakarta

The towering Hindu temples in Prambanan are hidden within a park full of trees. Once revealed, you immediately realize the entire structure is covered in stone carvings. Our efforts to be at the park upon opening at 6 am, proved fruitful. We were the first to enter and had the temples to ourselves. Lucky for us, we missed the crowds yesterday, enjoying their day off for Chinese New Year. Enter the Dragon! The morning air was still cool and the clouds made better light for photographs. Some temples stood completed, with some obviously simpler, renovated blocks. Others had crumbled from age and earthquakes, a few doorway frames leading to piles of somewhat organized stones and columns.

Off to Yogya, we had just enough energy to visit the Kraton (palace). Built in the mid-1700's, this is still the residency of the current King, also governor of the city. He is loved by the people for his generosity with subsidies, low taxes and openly speaking with and making himself easily available to the public. He can be seen every Friday, freely riding his bicycle to Mosque! Much Dutch detailing in the architecture, as there is all over Java. The structures are 3 tiers, larger at the bottom (birth), to middle (life/struggle), and top (death) with a point on top directing to Heaven. Iron columns and white marble imported from Europe. Different colours painted representing Hindu (red), Buddhism (gold), and Muslim (black).

Now, the heat is making us sluggish, we are making the most of air con in the mall and cooling off in the pool :)

January 24, 2012

Solo in Solo

Solo is the centre of batik, a process using wax and inks to make patterns in fabric. The traditional process is still used for sarongs and also for modern fashion on shirts and dresses. Batik patterns are found everywhere, even painted on lamp posts and becaks (bicycle-rickshaws)! After browsing endless aisles of shops at the market, I finally decided on a silk scarf, mixed with several intricate patterns, including one I mostly identify as Javanese.
The Istana Mangkunegaran was beautiful and Solo's Grand Mall was a fun escape from the rain. I finally had a real (not instant) coffee at O Solo Mio and the loud, spinning rides at the amusement park looked like they were made out of paper mache. But what was most amazing about Solo, were the people who lived there. Every street we walked down, every person we passed, gave a warm smile. The toddlers yelled out "Hello, hello" to get our attention. Some shook our hands, followed with a respectful touch to their cheek. Women laughed with sparkles in their eyes and men gently nodded "Pagi" (good morning). A boy showed me how to play his popsicle stick game and a man gave me a couple passion fruits from his garden. A girl glamorously curled her hair as I took her portrait and teenagers grouped around me to take photos on their cell phones.
Having time to wander on my own as Huy was feeling ill, I passed a few girls wearing blue headscarves. A couple more appeared and asked for my name. Within moments I was surrounded by at least 30 blue-scarfed girls from the nearby Islamic school! They shied away from a photo, so I stayed a while to chat. One girl translated all the questions from Indonesian to English, and then my answer from English to Indonesian, followed by a group giggle :) After at least 45 minutes of discussion, they accepted a group photo. As I began to leave, every single girl shook my hand with a pretty smile, and some a touch to the cheek. And an acknowledgement to Huy to tell him they hope he gets better soon. It was so lovely and heart-warming and unexpected and endearing that I cannot properly explain my emotions as looked back and saw them all waving back, saying goodbye.

January 22, 2012

Gunung Bromo

Driving up the curling road to Gunung Bromo, the scenery eventually dissolved into white. Only early afternoon, the fog was dense and completely hid any clues to the massive crater surrounding us. The next morning, we slowly walked up to the viewpoint, capturing photos of people passing with loads of produce on their heads and vegetables planted on the steep slopes. Arriving at the top, the clouds had started rolling into the unusual landscape--several craters within an older, larger, 10 km crater and another erupting volcano in the distance beyond. Only a few minutes later the entire scene disappeared, making the walk down feel a bit eerie.

The next morning started at 3:30 am, into a 4x4 to make the same route up to the viewpoint at sunrise. Despite the clouds, we saw blinks of bright orange light and a surreal scene of mountains, volcanos, and craters illuminated around us. Clouds filled up the valleys and greens, browns, and blues emerged from the darkness. One traveler saw fire flaming for a few seconds from the active volcano! Back into the jeep, we headed down to the flat surface in the crater, filled with volcanic sand. It looked less flat than afar with rolling dunes and crevises. Steep stairs up to the rim left us breathless and a bit dizzy from the altitude. Then after the last step, surprise! On the rim of Mt. Bromo, the view of the crater was immediate and even deeper than our climb... the first thought being, don't fall in! A huge black hole filled with a blue-green liquid that looked like water, was actually hot lava.

January 16, 2012


After two and a half days of travel, Huy and I's lives had been enriched with at least three movies, several games of battleship, a Hagaan-Dazs ice cream bar, and admiring Hong Kong's efficient transportation system. We landed on a wet tarmac in Denpasar, and only minutes later, the daily 3pm monsoon rain poured down. First purchase on my list is a poncho!

Despite the rain, we had a happy reunion with Aunty and had a relaxing first couple of days to get over jet lag in a beautiful home. There are many sunny breaks but my plan is to make use of the wet weather by integrating it into my photographs. Experiment No.1 was on the bus ride to Lovina. We crossed the island North-wise to the black sandy coast. Along the way, we ascended foggy mountains with cliff sides wallpapered in giant ferns and drove along roads that flowed like rivers. Drops of water on the windows became out-of-focus spots splashed across my drive-by photos.

Lovina is a lovely, fun beach town in the dry season. But dry season, it is not, so after a night we continued our journey West towards Gilimanuk. More drive-by shots, mostly of passing motos. Some with cute babies and children dressed in school uniforms. Men drove with piles of greenery taller then themselves, trays of folded banana leaves, a tv, and long tubes of bamboo balanced on one shoulder. Gradually the scenery became more mountainous and lush, until we arrived at the ferry to take us to Java, and then... it started to rain.

Onwards to the sulpher miners at Gunung Ijen, we met Fendy who told us it's erupting poisonous gas! It has been closed for the past 3 weeks and will not likely reopen for a couple more. So one night here in Banyuwangi, and we're on the road (train) again tomorrow. Wish us better luck at Mt. Bromo!

January 10, 2012

Daily Candy

My "Red Sunset" has made it onto Daily Candy!! Scroll down to Photo Galleries where other calendars are featured too.

It's a perfect day to fly to Asia :)

January 09, 2012

Miracle Thieves

Happy 2012!! It feels great to write that number :)

Miracle Thieves is a cute little store/studio space that is filled with one of a kind artistic things made by local artists. At the corner of Dundas and Crawford street, I'm proud to see them in my hood! Plus they have added my Mountain Calendars, Vintage Wallpaper Notebooks, and Gift Tags to their inventory, with much delight.

"Miracle Thieves is a colony of joyful rebels."