Friday, December 30, 2011

Email dari US: Apapun itu, Indonesia cantik kok.

Dari kiri ke kanan: Mika, Manuela, Jonas, Daniel, and me :)
Ini adalah email dari teman saya Manuela Kolb dari United States (US) alias Amerika Serikat. Pesan moralnya, apapun kondisinya, seberapapun beratnya, dunia itu tetap indah untuk dijejalahi. Pun Indonesia dengan segala persoalannya. Selamat menyimak, semoga menemukan "sesuatu" dari email ini.

Hello everybody

naming this episode "boomerang" just means that i feel that i am on the journey back, even though i still have another 6-8 weeks left on this trip. i am flying to Australia on Wednesday, April 06.

Thailand was December and lovely, though wet from all sides, lots of rain and lots of diving. found a little heaven and great people for Christmas on Koh Mook. the manager was the coolest man and put all his effort in showing us a good time like taking us to the Emerald Cave, only to be reached by boat and swimming through a cave in complete darkness to reach a beach surrounded by a miniature jungle and straight cliffs. breathtaking in every way.

Fell in love with Malaysia at the first sight of a dim sum place in Penang. Amazing food and lovely people. Unfortunately it still rained a lot so jungle treks became mosh pits and there were lots of areas that were even closed due to the rains, i have to go back later in the season some time (and i will definitely go back). I only had time for the Malaysian Peninsula before i headed to Sri Lanka to meet my sister.

I went 2 weeks early to meet the people of this gentle country and to see some things before she got in. Again, lots of unseasonal rain and i had to stay away from the entire North East, where it rained so much that landmines got washed out and accidents happened. Glad that the war is over since 2 years there is lots of army presence everywhere and over 1 million unexploded mines to be dealt with. The people look similar to Indians and many women even wear Saris but they could not be more different. 70 % of the country is Buddhist, there are lots of smiles and welcoming places everywhere. the highlands are green with tea plantations and the beaches have recovered from the tsunami of 2004. Eva came and we traveled some of the ancient sites together, saw wild elephants, she did her first open water dives and was great company. the food is supposed to be the hottest in Asia, but i think our pale skin always removed a few chillies without asking.

Back in Malaysia i headed for Borneo. With only 15% of primary forest left, it was one of the wildest and most beautiful places i have ever seen. the people were even nicer than on the peninsula as they are much less spoiled by tourism. up rivers and into jungles, looking for and finding Orangutans (they have 98% of our human DNA and it is amazing what a difference the right 2 % can make) black Monkeys, Pygmy Elephants, Tarsirs (think:Yoda from Star Wars) and lots of birds like hornbills, kingfishers etc. . Sipadan is supposed to be one of the best dive sites in the world and hard to get a permit for, one has to wait weeks. mine came due on the rainy day after a huge storm and under the worst conditions. Bad luck, still some great dives with lots of fish, turtles and sharks.
Another one to repeat under better conditions.

Brunai is so small that you can drive across in a few hours, but i think the nicest people award of the trip goes to them. with all the oil money there is nobody to hustle you and they bend over backwards to help. everything is left open and unprotected as no one is wanting. it is a very easy place and with some time one could head to the jungle which again, due to the oil money, never had to be touched and is all first growth teaming with wild life.

Indonesia greeted me with bad roads (26 hour trip in a cramped 4 WD with one driver and mudholes bigger than the roads, we even had to get out and walk through some, i later met a woman who dislodged a disk on that stretch) and more lovely people. Took a boat from Kalimantan (the lower half of Borneo) to Sulawesi in a huge ferry which had locked all emergency exits and got me thinking boats in Indonesia are not a good idea. Some great diving on Bunaken with amazing walls and coral full of fish. very exciting.
On to Bali to meet my friends Franz & Petra. What a huge shock. What the hell was going on? roof on roof with more stores and hotels than could be imagined. Famous Ubud gave me the creeps with the Eat-Pray-Love-syndrome in full swing. Middle aged women (such as myself) looking for their Xavier Bardem, their happiness, or enlightenment. Could not stand it and took off to a small island in search of Manta Rays. Probably one of the most beautyful and graceful beings on earth and a highlight of the trip.
Java has some beautiful active volcanoes and i got to rise and shine before 4 am a few times. Ijen Plateau is the most outer worldly landscape where sulfur is harvested. 50 kg men carry up to 100 kg baskets on their backs up a steep slope and down 3 km with no protection from the biting smoke and sulfur. Bromo located inside a larger crater together with another 2 cones was also stunning. Borobudur has very well kept carvings and is very spiritual. Prambanan, the Hindu counterpart is equally amazing.

I have experienced so much in the last 9 month that i think a year for a trip is too long. it all starts to blend. many things were exciting and impressive but i already have to stop and try to remember where ... was. there are thousands of images and impressions. i love the colors in India and believe that they make every sari only once, never saw the same one twice. there were lots of beggars and poverty but i am glad to report that mutilating children has gone out of fashion about 20 years ago and one only sees the truly bizarre disfigurations on adult beggars. but the overall impression i have from SE Asia is that the middle class is growing and education is becoming more available. as with Europe, the globalization comes with the disadvantage of the loss of old customs, some identity etc. the countries are changing very quickly already. Especially Malaysia surprised me by how westernized it is. I am amazed about the patience people show and the endless smiles, joking and laughing. Traffic is horrendous & i am in awe about how they survive.
Tthe food price goes to a bowl of soup i had at a street stall in Malaysia. the noodles were made by pressing the dough between thumb and the side of the hand which makes them uneven and with chewy texture, a great broth, some vegetables, a heaping spoon of dried anchovies, fried garlic and shallots...amazing. Kopi Luwak, where the berries are eaten and digested by cats, then
processed gets a honorary mention.

There is so much to see and to do. The world is full of beauty. Lucky me to experience it.

Looking forward to catching up, soon.

All the best