In October 1994, our years 10 and 11 Indonesian language classes went on a school trip to Indonesia and Singapore. As I was born in May, I found myself in between the two age groups, but mostly ended up hanging out with the older kids because they were allowed to drink.
We had been fundraising for the previous year by cooking Indonesian dishes and various other means. Our Indonesian teacher was very passionate and knowledgeable about the country and it was her drive that enabled the trip in the first place.
She wanted us to experience the traditional cultural Indonesia away from the tacky tourist spots, so our first stop was the island of Lombok. The hotel had a fresh water pool and we went for a jungle walk to a Hindu temple shrine. In the evening, we had a traditional Indonesian dancing lesson.
We went to Senggigi Beach and stayed in a resort where I saw my first pool bar. The boys climbed trees for coconuts and we ate in a restaurant on the beach. We visited a primary school where all the kids loved orange and blonde hair as it was unusual to them and they wanted to touch it. We also visited Purbasari weaving village and a pottery village.
From there, we caught the hydro foil to Bali. I got hassled to get my hair plaited at Kuta Beach to the point of tears- lesson learned- the less touristy Lombok was better that Bali.
We travelled to Yogyakarta, Java and saw the king’s throne at the Kraton. The city itself was busy and full of becaks (also known as rickshaws). We visited a silver factory, a batik weaving factory and a shadow puppet making and mask factory.
The epic Ramayana night play at Prambanan Temple was as long as expected and watched on uncomfortable stone seats which made it seem even longer. We visited the magnificent Borobudur Temple- I had never been to a temple so big before even after visiting dozens of them with my parents in other parts of Asia.
We went to the lovely little village of Bukit Lawang, Sumatra and stayed in huts that were separated from the town by a bridge over the river. We went swimming and I remember eating a whole bag of Kopiko’s while everyone else played volley ball.
One of the girls got invited to a wedding being held in the village by a local boy and our teacher encouraged her to go an experience first-hand something that most tourists would not get to see.
The highlight of the trip for me was visiting the Orangutans at the Tanjung Puting Rehabilitation Centre, Kalimantan. We also went to caves with bats and saw rubber trees.
On the way back to Australia, we stopped in Singapore. My friend Selina and I took the cable car to Sentosa Island, an artificial island with palm trees planted in a line two metres apart. We went on an enchanted grove dragon walk which had lots of dragon statues. We visited the maritime museum, the butterfly park and saw a costume show at the Asian village which encompassed East Asia and had a Philippine village that looked like Europe.