Photo Walk Taman Situlembang

I had a rain-soaked photo walk in Menteng just before the Kolkata trip. A lovely lotus pond tucked away in the heart of downtown Jakarta, a short walk from Taman Suropati:

In spite of all the plastic bag covers, the camera got wet, and I had to cut short the walk to dry out the lenses. First, dehumidification in the car air-conditioning on the long drive home. After taking the camera out of the car it fogged up again, but the sun was shining at the perfect angle – all the better for round 2 of drying.

There were some butterflies in the garden, for some more photo ops.

I didn’t want to take a chance with the camera, and let it dry out in the fan for an hour more.

Surprises in Semarang

The Indonesian Heritage Society is my gateway to new and interesting experiences all over Indonesia. Such as last week, when we took the train to Semarang, a city planned by the Dutch in North Central Java, ostensibly on a shopping trip for ceramics. We took the long but scenic route via train, a 6-hour comfortable ride past Javanese towns, rice fields, and even bits of the coast.

Semarang 1

From the station, we were transported by becaks (cycle rickshaws) straightaway to the Sango Ceramics Factory Outlet to spend a glorious afternoon shopping (think 15 women, factory outlet).Semarang 6

So engrossed were we, picking out dinner sets and other things we didn’t need that I, for one, didn’t even think of taking a photo in there. Of course, with my history of breaking stuff in shops, all dangling things were safely tucked away.

My friend, Sara, donated her photo to this post:

Factory outlet

It only tells a part of the story; there were 3 enormous shops, and I may have walked 5 km within.

The reward for spending all that money was a super-elegant dinner filled with gifts and surprises, organised by James, our tour leader.

 

 

 

There was a full day of sightseeing thrown in, the following day. A real eye-opener. I had imagined Semarang to be a boring industrial town. Industrial it is, boring not. There’s a rich history of colonial, Chinese and Javanese heritage, surprisingly well-preserved, and a delight to behold. We spent an intensely ‘spiritual’ day, starting with the great Masjid Agung, then the protestant Blenduk Church, a Buddhist temple, and finally a Chinese temple, punctuated by a tour of Museum Jamu Nyonya Meneer and Lawang Sewu (Thousand Doors) – the old Railroad Office.

The Masjid might have been more interesting had we been able to enter the main prayer hall, or seen the large umbrellas opened (a unique feature of this mosque), but we wanted to stay on track with our ambitious agenda, and had little time to stop and stare.

Lawang Sewu is rumoured to be haunted, but apparently the ghosts stay away in broad daylight. There’s a beautiful stained glass window to be admired, and the climb to the roof is rather thrilling.

Our group was starting to wilt under the extremes of the sun and rain, when we arrived at Sam Poo Kong, our last spot before heading to the airport. This is the oldest Chinese temple that was originally established by the Chinese explorer, Zheng He, during the 15th century. It was destroyed and renovated several times since then, and now has a fresh coat of bright red paint, guaranteed to energize the most jaded tourist.

Great planner that James is, he arranged for all our ceramics shopping to be shipped directly to Jakarta, while we travelled light. The goodies are home already, and we’ve created space for more dinner plates, snack plates, serving bowls and platters like they belonged there forever!

Photo walking in Kuningan

Kuningan – a neighbourhood in downtown Jakarta characterised by high-rise buildings and traffic snarls. Get on foot, and into the back lanes, and you can discover a completely different picture and a myriad of individual stories.

Photo walk Kuningan

No dearth of colour:

Photo walk Kuningan Photo walk Kuningan Photo walk Kuningan

80-years old, perfectly happy to pose:

Photo walk Kuningan Photo walk Kuningan

Kids at the fish farm:

Photo walk Kuningan Photo walk Kuningan

Pigeon racing trainer:

Photo walk Kuningan Photo walk Kuningan Photo walk Kuningan

Cock-fight trainer:

Photo walk Kuningan Photo walk Kuningan

A world view of their own:

Photo walk Kuningan Photo walk Kuningan

Just happy:

Photo walk Kuningan

The hills are alive!

Rounded off the last year with an invigorating walk through Sentul, outside Jakarta, with a few friends.

The rains hadn’t been too heavy, so the muddy paths were dry and easy to walk through. It’s amazing how you can be out of Jakarta and within an hour there’s no sign of city. Of course, I don’t even have to enter Jakarta every day. Just stay on the toll road, and bypass the Big Durian to get to Sentul.

Hiking in Sentul

We saw tapioca being processed:

Hiking in Sentul Hiking in Sentul

 

Rambutans ripening on the trees:

Hiking in Sentul

 

All kinds of farming:

 

Hiking in Sentul Hiking in Sentul Hiking in Sentul

 

And a unique ‘scarecrow system’, where bits of plastic and fabric are hung all across the fields, connected by twine – you pull one end and everything flaps about noisily to scare birds away:

Hiking in Sentul

 

Kids bathing in the river:

Hiking in Sentul

 

Laundry drying:

Hiking in Sentul

And the grasshopper had an eyeful of us:

Hiking in Sentul

 

There was a welcome waterfall after the exercise:

Hiking in Sentul

That made a cool pool into which we waded ‘coz we were armed with swimsuits.

No, you don’t get to see THAT photo!

 

Another Island, Another Dive

I cannot believe it’s been a year since I went diving, but it is, and our first dive at Nusa Lembongan was enough proof of those skills having rusted.
Ostensibly this was to be a dive buddy reunion from our certification group. Unfortunately half of that original group opted out, leaving just Malavika and I, joined by Sarvesh, Mala’s better half.
Nusa Lembongan is a tiny island just off the Bali coast, with big dive spots. We went with World Diving, and stayed at their nice villas called Frangipani in the back street. At this time of the year, there weren’t any mola-mola to sight, but manta rays were the biggest attraction (see the number of divers hanging around). A ‘small’ shark sleeping under the rock, beautiful coral too, and gorgeous sunset above water. Let the pictures tell the story.

Tip: Remember to wear your shortest shorts while getting on the fast boat to Nusa, coz you have to wade through thigh deep water at both ends, and the stickiness lasts forever.

Wait… There’s More

Half a day in London on Monday was not to be let go without taking in some more sights. Big ones at that – London Eye, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace change of guard, and some quick shopping on Oxford Street. They played the James Bond tune at the change of guard, how about that! We were too late for the start, and there were hordes of people already; I just had a glimpse of the spectacle through narrow gaps here and there.

CoincidenceThe surprise of the day was a chance meeting with my cousin right after our shopping jaunt, as we were about to find a bite to eat. Turned out we had crossed paths a couple of times that day, but the stars had aligned just then, and we met. A quick lunch at Marble Arch followed the excited squeals, and we were off on our separate paths before the forecasted rain, but not before a self-timed photo.

Then we got on to the bus that would take us home directly, which had a little scrape on the way, and we had to find another one. As if there wasn’t enough excitement already.

Soon it was time to say goodbye to the Manns and London. Upon landing in Jakarta we learnt that we’d just missed a chance meeting with Hurricane Gonzalo that had swept past England, and shut down Heathrow. Lucky escape there, thanks to Jai Gajanan!

A Smashing Sunday ‘Twas

Sunday promised to be as hectic as Saturday, but we found time to play ball with Pepper:

Pepper Pepper

Then it was the tube to Camden Lock Market – a place so vibrant that I never wanted to leave.

There were hordes:

And sights:

And smells:

All those divine aromas beckoned us. We couldn’t resist snacking – beer, sangria, wraps, fruit – in spite of the big lunch planned at Dishoom. I finally had my Indian meal out in London, and a very Bambaiyya one at that, vada pav and pav bhaji. Amazing coincidence that another friend, Hemangi, had also recommended this restaurant. Souvik had, uh, butter chicken! And then we walked to some more iconic spots – Trafalgar Square & Buckingham Palace.

And that we’re turning into oldies, we had a night in, for a change, and a cosy, home-cooked dinner.