Saturday, April 3, 2010

Along the north coast to Semarang

Well let's face it, transit days are crap! There you are, eager to start your holiday and, well, you've got to get there first. Airports for the budget traveller are crowded, noisy and there's a lack of comfy seats - they do that deliberately to stop people staying the night. But I can report that the LCCT at KL has some nice cafes (that strawberry frappe went down just fine) and a pretty mean noodle shop, not to mention an english language bookstore where I could get a novel to read en route. I was disappointed to discover that my onward flight to Jakarta had been rescheduled to leave an hour or so later, meaning any real chance of escaping the capital was now unlikely. Nevermind, Damri do a fine bus service in to town, where I got to enjoy Jakarta by night (definitely an improvement on its daytime appearance) and an interesting rendition of loud belches from the lady behind me who had a serious wind problem. Aaah I do love that about Indonesia, no pretences about bodily functions.

So a night was had in an air conditioned rat hole in the backpacker district of Jakarta and the following morning I jumped on a train to Cirebon. Cirebon is on the north coast of Java, and is known for its Kratons (Sultan's Palaces) and its prawns. In fact the town hall is literally draped in them! Prawns that is.The Kraton is an interesting mix of javanese, chinese and dutch architecture and also houses a really weird chariot or two.There's also a mighty fine market where yours truly enjoyed herself yet again with the locals and somehow resisted the durian stalls - perhaps it was a little early in the day.Photos of Cirebon here.

After Cirebon I took a bus to Pekalongan, a smallish town which is the centre of Batik. It appears that most of the designs for new batik all come from here, even if they are made in different parts of Java. Not being a batik fan, I completely failed to take advantage of my location but instead spent the afternoon playing Uno with my hospitality club host Anna, and her colleagues, a collection of young German lads and lasses working for a German NGO. Well it was raining!!Anna works with homeless kids and she had just finished an art project with them. That morning they had a little art gallery opening where the paintings were being displayed at the house of her Indonesian family hosts. Anna had only just moved out into a small boarding house and this extremely generous young lady gave me her bed to sleep on whilst she slept on a mat on the floor. It's really great to meet people dedicated to making a difference and dear Anna is certainly doing her bit. We went to visit the gallery the next morning, and I also got to try the local delicacy of Nasi Megono - a jackfruit dish not dissimilar to green papaya salad served with rice.

Pekalongan pics here

One of Anna's friends, Mega, was visiting from Semarang, and she offered me a lift there on the back of her motorbike. "That might be fun" will have to go down as one of those unforgettable quotes, because let me tell you three hours on the back of a motorbike is far from fun. One numb bum later I am in Semerang at a friend's house when a friend of a friend offers to take me up to the old city. This young lass is Detya, 24 years old with her own small business and studying communications part time. Before I know it I not only have a tourist guide, but an invitation to stay the night. The deal is I help Detya with her English and she helps me with my Indonesian. Win win situation or sama sama enak !! Detya is unbelievable, not only does she take me around the old Dutch part of the city, but out to Demak where the oldest mosque in Java is, gives me a bed for the night and breakfast, takes me around Chinatown and to the temple (where I get my fortune told, apparently all is well but I am to be careful if going to Jakarta), and then takes me all the way to Gedung Songo in the middle of a huge thunderstorm. Detya has a nice car, her father is a policeman and has seen far too many motorbike accidents to let his daughter ride one. I am very grateful to Detya's parents for this!!Here's the photos of Semarang, I'm now back on my own and ready to explore some temples.

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