Museum Hopping in Jakarta 

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The exterior of Museum Seni.

One of the things I was looking forward most to about living in Jakarta was the museums.  I have loved museums since I was a child, and even though my older, more educated self can understand how they can sometimes be quite problematic, I still fall head over heels for the way a good museum can encourage curiosity and somehow manage to capture the enormity of a culture or a time period in even the smallest of exhibits.  When I studied for a semester in London, I spent much of my time wandering in the giant national museums and galleries, as well as seeking out some of the hole-in-the wall collections they don’t always put in tour guides.  And while my Fulbright experience allowed me to head twice to D.C. and see some of the incredible Smithsonian’s that I had before only read about, the two cities I found myself placed in as an ETA were a bit smaller and did not have a particularly extensive selection of museums.  Jakarta is one of the few places in Indonesia that that has several museums, and I was eager to explore.  While I didn’t get to see all of the museums Jakarta had to offer, I did see a fair few, and a few more than once.

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The statue that gives Museum Gajah its name.

Museum Gajah (Museum Nasional Indonesia)

The National Museum is the largest museum in Jakarta, and in all of Indonesia.  It has a fairly extensive stonework and ceramic collection that I never got bored of seeing no matter how many guests I accompanied there.  There is a good amount of information about some of the different cultures across Indonesia (their display of traditional houses is especially memorable), and the English descriptions, while not perfect, are generally understandable, which is not always the case in Indonesian museums.   Museum Gajah actually means Elephant Museum, and this nickname comes from a statue of an elephant outside of the museum, a gift to Indonesia from Siam (modern day Thailand) in 1871.  The museum is right across from Monas (Monument Nasional), making it one of the most visited museums in the city, so if it’s possible to do so, it’s always better to visit on a weekday.  They were renovating some parts of the museum towards the end of my grant, and while it is a bit of a bummer that some of the exhibits were closed, there is no denying that some sections were in need of some repairs, and I am glad they are taking the time to do so.  It is possible to do this museum in one visit, but if you have the time, it would be best to give yourself several visits, so that you can really take everything in.

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A painting by Afandi, one of my favorite Indonesian artists.  This was part of the Presidential Exhibit.

Galleri Nasional

Galleri Nasional (the National Gallery), does not have a permanent exhibit, but rather has different kinds of exhibits constantly coming through, usually only for a few weeks at a time.    It is also within walking distance of Monas, albeit a slightly farther jaunt, and is well worth a peak if there is time.  And for folks that live in Jakarta, it is a museum to keep an eye on.  Not all of the exhibits there are equal, in my eyes, but some of them are truly stellar.  I saw a particularly good exhibit around Independence Day, which included a selection of paintings on loan from the presidential collection.

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The courtyard of Museum Fatahillah.

Museum Fatahillah (Museum Sejarah Jakarta)

Most commonly called Museum Sejarah Jakarta (History of Jakarta Museum), this museum is housed in what used to be the Governor’s office, during the Dutch Colonial era.  The building itself is the focus point of Kota Tua (Old City), which is filled with old Dutch buildings that have been repurposed by the Indonesian Government, many as museums[1].  The rooms are filled with old furniture and portraits of Dutch officials that had a significant influence during the colonial era.  Nothing in the museum is labeled, so it is important to find a guide.  When I visited, I had a fabulous guide who spoke excellent English and who was able to piece together everything on display in a way that really painted a picture of the building and the different moments in history of which it played a role, but I have heard from friends that the guides there can be very hit or miss.  Still, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit, though I do wish I had gone earlier in the day, as the museum is not air conditioned and can get rather stuffy.

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One of the wayang at Museum Wayang.

Museum Wayang

Wayang Kulit (Shadow Puppets) are one of my favorite parts of Indonesian performance art.  Museum Wayang, another of the museums in Kota Tua, has an extensive collection of puppets from across the country, and even a few from other places.  Some of them are quite old, as well, and so it is possible to see how the methods used to make the puppets and the styles of the puppets changed throughout history.  However, while the collections itself is great, the museum is in major need of renovation.  The lighting is poor, it is hot and stuffy, the English signs are almost incomprehensible, and the Indonesian signs are not much clearer or more informative.  If you go, try to get a guide, or go with a friend who knows more about wayang and can explain it to you (which is what I did).  With patience and a little help, it is definitely worth a visit, but it is not a museum I would recommend just walking into on a whim.

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The inner courtyard at Museum Bank Indonesia.

Museum Bank Indonesia

This is probably the best museum in all of Jakarta[2], and it is also part of Kota Tua.  (Just be careful and don’t confuse it with Museum Bank Mandiri, which is right down the street: I never had a chance to go to Museum Bank Mandiri, but I heard that it simply did not compare to Bank Indonesia.)  It is a beautiful museum, inside what used to be the main bank for Indonesia, both during the Dutch Colonial area and even for some time after Independence.  Much of the museum is dedicated to the history of the bank, which is structured in such a way that it actually does a good job of telling the story of Indonesia as we know it today.  For those who don’t know that much about Indonesian history and prefer museums to books, it can act as an excellent introduction, and those who already know something will find the economic focus interesting.  There is also a room at the end of the museum filled with coins and paper bills from almost every country in the world, and often from different eras, which can be a lot of fun to explore.  Though it is possible to do Museum Bank Indonesia in a few hours, I revisited the museum several times with friends, and always enjoyed myself.

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One of the many rooms in Museum Seni.

Museum Seni Rupa dan Keramik (Museum Seni)

Museum Seni (the Art Museum), is yet another museum in Kota Tua, and it is the one that I was looking forward to most while I was there, because I absolutely love art museums.  The collection is fairly good, and certainly worth the admission fee.  However, the museum is in major need of repair, and the English signage is rather poor.  If you can read Indonesian or have a friend who can translate, the Indonesian signs, while a bit ragged around the edges, do give some very good information about the artists and the various painting styles that have come in and out of fashion in Indonesian art, but the English signs do not have accurate translations and can, as a consequence, can be very confusing.  As someone who loves paintings and ceramics, which is much of what makes up the collection, I was perfectly happy to work my way through the Indonesian to learn a little more about Indonesian art, but it might not be the best experience for everyone.

Taman Prasati

This was another one of my favorite museums in Jakarta.  It isn’t really a museum at all, but rather a graveyard used during the Dutch era.  The tombstones are not all originally from that particular location: many graveyards were destroyed after Independence, and people interested in preserving the history of those graveyards moved the tombstones to a new location, while the bodies, in many cases, were shipped back to the Netherlands to be reburied in family plots (though it is said that there are still some left under the buildings that have now been built where the graveyards used to be).  This is another place where I would recommend a guide, if you visit.  It is a beautiful little plot, but without a guide you can’t do more that read what is on the tombstones themselves, and unless you read Dutch and know a lot about the Dutch Colonial Era in Indonesia, you’ll probably miss much of the story.

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Some of the many beautiful graves at Taman Prasati.  

[1] If you like museums, Kota Tua is definitely a good place to visit in Jakarta.  If you are trying to visit many or all the museums in that area in one day, I would recommend starting with Museum Seni, Museum Jakarta, or Museum Wayang, as none of those museums are air conditioned and can get rather hot once midday rolls around.  Museum Bank Indonesia is cool and comfortable, and I have heard the Museum Bank Mandiri is also air conditioned (though I never made it to this museum, and so can’t vouch that this is indeed the case).

[2] It is not, however, the best museum in all of Indonesia, in my eyes, though some people do feel that way.  I have to give that title to Museum Batik in Solo, Central Java, which I visited when I found myself unexpectedly in Solo in 2016.

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Snapshot: Labuan Bajo, Flores

Shortly after arriving back in Indonesia, I had the opportunity to travel to several cities across the archipelago, as part of inspecting and preparing sites that had not had an ETA before this year.  This “Snapshot” series is composed of short pieces about my all-too-brief visits to these beautiful and fascinating places, which are now the temporary homes of ETAs from the 2016-17 cohort.

My final site visit was to Labuan Bajo, in Flores.  It was not my first visit to the city: during my first ETA grant I visited Pulau Komodo and briefly explored the area around Labuan Bajo during my December break from teaching.  This small city in Flores is fascinating and beautiful, and I was tickled pink to have the opportunity to visit it again.

20160809_181804Due to its proximity to Pulau Komodo and Pulau Rinca, and because of the excellent diving and snorkeling in the area, Labuan Bajo is definitly a tourist destination in Indonesia, which makes it a bit different from many of the other ETA sites.  There is certainly a strong tourism influence in the actual city of Labuan Bajo, and some parts have even come to resemble a resort town, with western-style restaurants overlooking the harbor and the overabundance of dive shops that line the main street.

But Flores, in general, remains one of the poorest parts of Indonesia, and while that is still noticeable within the city of Labuan Bajo, it is quite obvious as soon as you leave town, and everything becomes smaller, a bit more traditionally Indonesian, a bit rougher around the edges.

When I visited Labuan Bajo in 2014, it was not nearly as touristy as it was when I visited in August.  As we talked to the co-teachers of this year’s ETAs, we learned that tourism in the area has increased quite rapidly, far faster than anyone can really keep up with.  This is especially felt, with equal parts excitement and trepidation, by the SMK (vocational) schools in the area, many of which have a tourism track.

The split between these two worlds, and the ever-changing tourist season, will most likely play a significant role in the grant of the two ETAs who will call Labuan Bajo home.  This is a dynamic transition period for the area, and while that is certain to create areas of confusion and frustration, it is also extremely exciting to bear witness to.  I cannot wait to hear the stories they will tell.

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Snapshot: Balige, Sumatra Utara

Shortly after arriving back in Indonesia, I had the opportunity to travel to several cities across the archipelago, as part of inspecting and preparing sites that had not had an ETA before this year.  This “Snapshot” series is composed of short pieces about my all-too-brief visits to these beautiful and fascinating places, which are now the temporary homes of ETAs from the 2016-17 cohort.

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A series of sunsets over Danau Toba.

Sumatra has been on my list of places that I have most wanted to see since coming to Indonesia.  Whenever I attend a dance competition with my students, it is the Sumatran dances I find most beautiful.  When a love song to Nasi Padang was recently put on YouTube by a Norwegian traveler to Indonesia, I identified with the song on a level that might just be unhealthy.  Images of the mountains and jungles in the heart of the sixth largest island in the world instill in me an urge to hop on the next plane to Bukittinggi or Banda Aceh… wherever, so long as it is Sumatra.  I can’t explain this fascination.  It just is.

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We went to one of the highest points to try to get a better view, but even then we could not capture the full majesty of Danau Toba.

But somehow I never made it to Sumatra during my first two years of living here.  This is mostly because I wanted to spend sufficient time in the places I wanted to visit in Sumatra, and I could never find that kind of space in my schedule.  I kept waiting for the perfect time to visit, and it never really came.

But this year, one of the ETA sites is Balige, North Sumatra, a small-ish town south of Danau (Lake) Toba, which has been on my list of places to see for two years now, and you can imagine my excitement when I found out I would have the opportunity to visit.  I was practically bouncing in my seat the on the plane from Jakarta.

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A morning stroll along the shore.

Sometimes you build up places in your mind and when you finally see them in real life, you find yourself disappointed: your imagination gave you expectations that reality, as incredible as it might be, could never meet.

Danau Toba did not disappoint.  Danau Toba was beyond anything I could have imagined.

Danau Toba is the largest volcanic crater lake in the world, and this title always made me imagine a wildness and a rawness to the area, but in reality Danau Toba holds a quiet power, it’s mirror-like water stretching away from the shore where children play and old men fish: its presence dominating its surroundings most powerfully in that it is so much a part of everyday life.

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Blessed with color.

I was lucky enough to go to Balige with a colleague whose family is from North Sumatra, which meant I had an expert guide to all the best foods, the most colorful fabrics, and the best places to explore in the short time we had.  She has always talked about how beautiful this area is, and I feel so privileged to be able to confirm how right she was.

I was only in the area for a few days, as this was an office trip, and that certainly was not enough.  I can’t wait for the next opportunity I have to visit Sumatra.

 

Snapshot: Surabaya and Sidoarjo, Jawa Timur

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A particularly famous statue in Surabaya, based on a legend.

Shortly after arriving back in Indonesia, I had the opportunity to travel to several cities across the archipelago, as part of inspecting and preparing sites that had not had an ETA before this year.  This “Snapshot” series is composed of short pieces about my all-too-brief visits to these beautiful and fascinating places, which are now the temporary homes of ETAs from the 2016-17 cohort.

After visiting Kendari, I flew straight from Sulawesi, the island of my second home in Indonesia, to the capital of East Java, the province in which I first found myself as an ETA in Indonesia.  While I lived in Malang I found myself somewhat frequently in Surabaya, as it has one of the largest airports in Indonesia, and when I traveled it was often easier and cheaper to take the bus to Surabaya and fly from there, rather than flying directly out of Malang’s airport.  Touching down in Surabaya produced similar feelings to that of touching down in Makassar: it was familiar, and a bit like coming home.

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The clock in Masjid Agung Al-Akbar,  in Sidoarjo, a mosque that always acted as a marker for me when I would take the bus from Malang to Surabaya.  This time I got to see it up close and personal. 

But this time I didn’t board the bus to Malang.  This time I stayed in Surabaya.

This year there is one ETA in Surabaya proper, and one in Sidoarjo, which is technically the next town over.  Sidoarjo is certainly different from Surabaya: there are not as many massive skyscrapers, the streets are smaller: essentially, it feels a bit more “classically Indonesian,” as problematic a term as that is.  However, there is no distinct separation between Surabaya and Sidoarjo (I have no idea exactly where one ends and the other begins).

Surabaya is the second largest city in Indonesia, which made it more than a little overwhelming at first, especially for a small-town girl like me.  But there are certainly advantages to such a large city, including a diverse group of cultures that each bring something different to the city (while stuck in traffic, we passed China Town, Arab Town, India Town… and I am sure there are more).  Surabaya really is a multicultural metropolis, which makes it really special as an ETA site.  And while the main streets are filled with shiny malls and skyscrapers, reflecting the hot Surabaya sun down upon the small humans that challenge these massive buildings with their larger-than-life laughter and kindness, off of the main streets are neighborhoods that speak in the same language of giggles and goodness, but in more muted tones of side markets and peeling green paint.

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Gereja Hati Kudus Jesus, an historic church in Surabaya.  

Surabaya (and Sidoarjo, in turn), are fascinating sites, which I could not come close to understanding in my short time there.  I cannot wait to hear stories from the ETAs there, come MidYear, to learn what it is like to live in the heart of East Java.

 

 

Snapshot: Kendari, Sulawesi Tenggara

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A fun little rumah makan (restaurant) on the water.

Shortly after arriving back in Indonesia, I had the opportunity to travel to several cities across the archipelago, as part of inspecting and preparing sites that had not had an ETA before this year.  This “Snapshot” series is composed of short pieces about my all-too-brief visits to these beautiful and fascinating places, which are now the temporary homes of ETAs from the 2016-17 cohort.

My first site visit was to Kendari, in Southeastern Sulawesi.  In many ways, going to Kendari felt a bit like returning to my second home in Indonesia, Gorontalo.  Boarding the same flight from Jakarta to Makassar that was so often part of my way back to site after training or travel to other parts of Indonesia, I was unprepared for the way nostalgia would crash down upon me, so soon after leaving Gorontalo.  After arriving in Kendari, I was constantly struck by how similar the two places were.  The way the sun beat down upon us and The way smoke billowed up against the background of a clear blue sky (so different from the haze I am now more accustomed to seeing in Jakarta) from the ikan bakar (grilled fish) stands lining the streets took me back to nights at my favorite warungs (hole-in-the-wall restaurants) with friends.  The way the tones of their Bahasa Indonesia danced up and down like children jumping rope echoed the lilt of my teachers’ joking in dewan guru (the teachers’ room) at MAN Model, the very accent I also had developed during my time there, for which my coworkers still tease me on occasion.

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In the center of Kendari there stands a massive menara (tower), originally built for a Qur’an-reading competition.  Though the stairs in the tower are slowly rusting away, I decided to follow the lead of the local young people, and climb it anyway (much to the horror of the colleague who was in Kendari with me): I was rewarded for my slight insanity with some beautiful views of Kendari.

Kendari and Gorontalo do in fact have a lot in common.  Both are coastal towns in Sulawesi.  Both are the ibu kota (capital) of their province.  Both are Muslim-majority areas.  Both are fairly conservative.  Both are stopover points on the way to popular tourist destinations, but are not often considered tourist destinations themselves.

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Sinonggi, also know as papeda, a local dish made from sagu.

But of course, Kendari and Gorontalo are not one and the same.  Kendari is significantly bigger than Gorontalo, with more than twice the population size, and this changed the feel of the town considerably.  The bits of local language thrown in were not Bahasa Gorontalo, and even certain mannerisms were different, reminding me that I could not so easily slip into my Gorontalo ways and pass as someone familiar with Kendari.  These differences only made me enjoy my time there more, and I am excited to talk to the ETAs who will live there when they return to Jakarta for their MidYear Enrichment Conference, to learn more about these differences from folks who have had more than a few days there.

Nonetheless, there was something very universally familiar woven into Kendari, and I loved that.  I’m excited for the three ETAs who are placed in Kendari this year, and I hope that someday they might feel the same way I did, boarding that plane out of Java, headed for Sulawesi, headed for home.

Just How Much I Have to Learn: A Visit to the South Korean Fulbright Commission

 

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One of the many crowded streets of Seoul.

I have had bountiful opportunities to travel throughout my life, from trips to other parts of the U.S. in high school with 4-H, to studying abroad in London during college, to somehow being able to live in Indonesia for now three years in a row.  I don’t know how to fully express how thankful I am to have had the chance to explore the globe, and learn so much about other parts of the world, and myself, along the way.

Since coming to Indonesia, I have focused most of my personal travel on exploring other parts of Indonesia itself.  I have more than once had the opportunity to visit Singapore for Visa reasons, and during the holiday season last year I was able to attend a friend’s wedding in Sri Lanka, but beyond that all of my travel in Asia had been here, in this country that has become my second home.  But on my way back to Indonesia this time around, I was able to visit yet another country in Asia: South Korea.

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My colleague and I (the two of us are in the center) surrounded by members of the Korean Orientation Team.

This visit was different from any of the travel I have done before: this was a work trip[1].  I was there with a colleague from AMINEF to meet with the South Korean Fulbright Commission and observe part of their ETA orientation, to learn different approaches to training and support of ETAs, and bring some of what we learned into our own work in Indonesia.  And I cannot emphasize enough how much we learned, and how thankful I am to have had the opportunity to go on this trip prior to the development of orientation during my own year as RC.  Having been an ETA twice, I already had two years of participating in the Indonesia ETA Orientation to help me as I helped to plan this year’s, but being able to see part of and talk to the orchestrators of a completely different orientation gave me even more tools in my toolbox as I, along with the invaluable AMINEF Team and SETAs, set forth to try to create a more complete and useful orientation for the incoming cohort of ETAs, building on all the hard work of the RCs before me.

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Korean barbecue… delicious AND fun.

And in between meetings and observations, we were able to explore a little bit of South Korea.  The South Korean Orientation is hosted by Jungwon University in Goesan, a smaller city towards the middle of the country.  The surrounding area was beautiful, and I loved the opportunity to wake up each morning and see a completely new landscape outside of my window.  One our way in and out of South Korea, we of course had a stopover in Seoul, a city unlike any I’ve had the opportunity to see before.  The AMINEF Team member I traveled with is a die-hard foodie, so we also did plenty of culinary exploring along the way: and Korean food is delicious.

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yo, a traditional Korean bed.  It was incredibly comfortable: I loved it.

Throughout my time in Korea, I was constantly confused as to how to respond to the situations I was in.  At this point in my life there are really only two contexts in which I feel comfortable, American and Indonesian, and I am forever making mistakes in even those contexts.  My understanding of South Korea, while perhaps microscopically better than the average American, especially after spending time in Asia, remains extremely limited[2].  As such, I kept defaulting to either American or Indonesian norms, jumping through any of the cultural hoops within my reach in the hope that one of them would allow me to land upright in the circus of cross-cultural understanding.  I realized quite quickly that bowing was a sign of respect, but was never able to stop bowing in the Javanese style, with my hands in front of me, and instead switch to the Korean manner, with my hands at my side.  I cannot count the number of times I tried to communicate to someone in English, then instinctually switch to Indonesian when it became clear they did not speak English, a language arguably less helpful in this given context; I would then realize my mistake, tease myself in a mix of languages with an apologetic smile, and the person I was talking to would usually laugh and smile in return, catching my blunders and handing them back to me wrapped in the most human of understandings: that we all miscommunicate and misunderstand.

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Some beautiful views from Jungwon University, where we were for most of our visit.

The entire experience echoed the Aristotle quote I’ve seen on the walls of hundreds of classrooms: “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.”  It may seem trite and overused at this point to some, but I cannot help but believe there is a reason it has been plastered across my education.  Because though I have learned so much in the travel I have had the opportunity to do, what I now know is still far less than what I do not know.  Intellectually, I have known this is the case for a long time, but I always relish concrete experiences that emphasize how this plays out in real-life situations as seemingly ordinary as ordering a cup of coffee.  The more I travel, the smaller I feel, and I have done nothing but gain from this diminishment, for which I am forever thankful.

 

 

[1] Because if I already wasn’t incredibly lucky to get to travel as much as I do, I now have the opportunity to travel to whole other countries for my job.  I am the luckiest girl in the world.

[2] This is something that always makes me very uncomfortable in the U.S.: I am constantly clarifying, as I am talking about my time in Indonesia, that I have only lived in certain parts of the country, and only for a short time, and I have never formally studied the country, so I am certainly no expert: I can only speak to my own experience.  Occasionally, I am asked to make generalizations about Asia as a whole, and this is something I really cannot do, with as limited an experience as I have.

Unexpected Solo Trip (That Was Not Solo At All)

During the Ujian Nasional (National Exam), I had made plans with several friends from my program to go to Tanjung Puting, a Natural Park in Central Kalimantan.  But on the day we were to head out of Jakarta, our first meeting point, and into the hutan (jungle) of Borneo, we learned our flight was at first delayed, and then later canceled because the plane was broken, and the trip had to be postponed.  Thankfully, most people were still able to make the trip happen, by flying into a different city in Kalimantan first and then flying from there to Pankalan Bun.  But for two friends and I, this was not possible because of when our schools would re-start classes.  So we collected our refunds, and went looking for the fastest and cheapest ticket out of the Jakarta airport (we had been there for almost eight hours at that point, and were ready to be moving again).

That ticket turned out to be to Solo, or Surakarta, a small city in Central Java.  We didn’t know all that much about Solo, except that there were a few keraton (palaces) and that it is famous for its batik.  That was good enough for the three of us, so we hopped on the next available flight, found ourselves a hotel when we got there, and made plans to explore our unplanned destination.  Fortunately for us, one of the good people of the AMINEF[1] team was born and raised in Solo, so we sent him a WhatsApp message asking where we ought to go, and he gave us a whole list of places to check out.

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The dining room of Keraton Mangkunegaran

Our first day, we allowed ourselves a somewhat late start after our harried journey the day before, and stayed within the city limits.  Our first stop was to Keraton Mangkunegaran, one of the two main palaces in Solo.  Our guide was charming and informative, and while the palace grounds were lovely, perhaps even more interesting was the collection of gifts from various countries inside the main chamber.

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One of the many stalls at the Antique Market.

Just down the street from Mangkunegaran was Solo’s famous antique market.  Haphazardly-organized and full of surprises, I could have spent hours exploring its hidden gems.  My favourite find, though, was a stack of old photographs: pictures of children going to school, farmers working their fields, young couples rowing boats together, old women telling stories; pictures of weddings, funerals, graduations, and military parades; snapshots into the recent history of Indonesia, the sort that don’t make it into the history books I pour over, but which tell arguably a more poignant story.  I didn’t buy any, but it was sorely tempting.

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Trying my hand at batik cat.  (It was fun, but I won’t be giving up my day job any time soon.)

We ended our explorations at the Batik Museum of Danar Hadi, which was by far the best museum I have been to yet in Indonesia, and probably one of my personal favorites ever.  Danar Hadi is one of the most popular brands of batik in Indonesia, and their founder has a private collection of over one thousand pieces of batik.  A few hundred of these are displayed in the museum behind their main shop, and with the help of a well-informed guide, you can explore batik from throughout the history of Indonesia, and from various regions.  There was even one section of the tour which allowed us to watch the process of batik being made, and try out hand at some batik cat (batik made with a special stamp).  I have always loved batik, and while I’ve learned quite a bit about it since coming to Indonesia, especially when I lived on Java, but this museum showed me I had only begun to scratch the surface of all there is to know of this beautiful fabric.

Our second day, we headed outside of Solo to see what the surrounding countryside had to offer.  We started at Candi Cetho, a Hindu Temple in the mountains surrounding Solo, one of the last Hindu temples still in use on Java.  Candi Cetho might be the most beautiful temple I have seen thus far in Indonesia, with the way it’s various levels climb gently up the hillside, and because we went on a morning when the fog pervaded everything around us, it only seemed more magical than it already was.

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Candi Cetho.

After Candi Cetho, we went to our second temple, Candi Sukuh.  Candi Sukuh is most famous for its somewhat scandalous carvings, and while the temple itself was under construction when we went, we still had plenty of fun making up stories for the effigies that had been carefully placed beside the temple, waiting for when they could be returned to their rightful place.

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Candi Sukuh.

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Good travel companions are just as important as the destination.

It began to rain rather hard while we were at Candi Sukuh, so we stopped for lunch at Ndoro Donker Tea Plantation, where the food was not so important as the delicious tea we were able to sample.  While most of my favourite Indonesian dishes come from Sulawesi, where I am placed now, I do often miss Javanese Tea.  As the rain came pouring down, we wrapped our hands around warm mugs of tea and found perfect contentment.

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So. Much. Green.

Nearby there was also a waterfall, which we clambered down over three hundred steps through lush jungle to reach.  The penjual sayur (vegetable sellers) have told me that Gorontalo has been even drier than usual this year, and everything has been a dry kind of yellow for some time now.  Seeing so much green while in Solo filled my soul with gladness.

We only had two days in Solo, and then had to return to our sites, and I hope that I will be able to return someday, but nonetheless, if a plane is grounded and your original plans for travel tidak jadi (don’t end up happening)… I have to tell you, Solo makes for an excellent unexpected trip.

 

[1] AMINEF is the American Indonesian Education Foundation, the commission that runs the Fulbright Program in Indonesia, for those who may not know.