Tag Archives: kalimantan

It’s an Asia Thing

My first foray into Asia was to India. I marvelled at the temples of Tamil Nadu, spent Christmas in KodaiKanal and saw the sunset at Cape Cormorin. There was a visit to a strange circus in Kerala, a boat trip in Cochin and lots of ice cream in Goa. We went to markets, met Mormons, climbed Cape Rama Fort and left through the gateway to India in Bombay.

Next was a school trip to Indonesia where we were educated in all the traditional arts and crafts from batik to silver making. We travelled through Lombok, Bali, Java, Sumatra and Kalimantan. The highlights were the vast Borobudur temple and the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre.

On the way home we went through Sentosa Island in Singapore. There have been many trips to the land of the Merlion since then to explore the food in Chinatown, the shops on Orchard Rd and visit friends, now expats of the city.

Close by is my favourite Asian destination of Malaysia. The fabulous food halls in Malacca, the life of Penang and the beautiful islands of course. So far I have visited Pulau Kapas, Pulau Pangkor and Pulau Tioman twice. Each island is special and interesting in its own way for the monkey in a hammock, the snorkelling or the sunsets.

The first time I went to Bangkok in Thailand I thought it was a big dirty Asian city. I thought Phuket was incredibly spoilt by tourism and I was sure I would never return. How wrong I was, as the island of Koh Lanta was to become the special place where I became engaged and later married. The little town of Ban Saladan and the beach at Kaw Kwang will forever have a piece of my heart.

Vietnam was a pleasant surprise, largely untouched by the greed of making a buck when I went there. I loved Hanoi, the city built around Haan Kim Lake and was fascinated by the other side of history as the story of Ho Chi Min unfolded before me. Halong Bay was undoubtedly beautiful and the little French colonial hill village of Tam Dao was a rare treasure.

When you think of places to go in Asia, South Korea is probably not at top of mind. However, I found I very much enjoyed discovering the two sides of Seoul. One deep in the traditions of markets, gates and palaces; and the other slightly crazy side of shopping centres, theme parks and off beat fashion.

I wish I had visited Hong Kong before the English handed it back to the locals, just to see how much it had changed. The modern world could clearly be seen here, but there were still the remnants of old. Like the Star Ferry and the fact that the city still had many large green spaces that had not yet been bulldozed by development. The smog of Victoria Peak reminded me that it was still Asia, but back on the ground there was always a drink in Soho to cool you down.

Yes, Asia can be hot, dirty and tiring; but it is also exciting, enticing and an assault to the senses. Riding in tuk tuks, bargaining with the friendly locals and appreciating the simple things in life. Asia has a lot to teach us and I sincerely hope that modernisation doesn’t engulf it to the point where it can no longer be recognised for the glorious cultural explosion it is.

Related posts: It’s a Sri Lankan Thing, Destination Thailand, 2010, Thailand, 2009, South Korea, 2008, Malaysia, 2006, Vietnam, 2003, Thailand, 2002, Sri Lanka, 1998, Sri Lanka and Malaysia, 1994, Indonesia and Singapore, 1994, England, Singapore and Malaysia, 1988, India, 1987- 1998, Part 2: The Journey North, India 1987- 1988, Part 1: The Road South

Indonesia and Singapore, 1994

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.

Related posts: Friendship: Great Expectations?, England, Singapore and Malaysia, 1988