Saturday, May 31, 2014

Where Bogans go for holidays

It is a sad fact of life that Bali is close to Australia, easy to get to, and cheap. This means every bogan either side of the black stump can afford a holiday there, and they come here in droves. And have a wonderful time.

In my 2 months in Java I often had conversations with locals about Bali, about why I was taking so much time seeing their patch of the woods and not hightailing it to the island of hedonistic pleasure as soon as possible. My response was the same: too many bogans.

Actually, I don't know the word for bogan in Indonesian, so I had to be a bit more long winded. And for the benefit of everyone else, we'll explore my prejudices shall we?

Bogan has some great urban dictionary definitions, go on, go look it up, but is essentially a derogatory or self deprecating (Aussies don't mind taking the piss out of themselves and some bogans are loud and proud) description for a not particularly well educated white person, from Australia, but Kiwis sometimes use it too, who dresses in a particular way. It's the Aussie equivalent of "trailer trash" or "Essex lad/lass" I guess.

I have quite a few friends who are bogans, and they are really nice people, not that much different from anyone else aside from their appalling fashion sense! The trouble with the bogan on holiday, is he/she behaves exactly the same way as at home, with zero regard for the culture in which they are placed. Only with more money to spend...

So, transport a large number of bogans to Bali. It's by far cheaper to spend a week on holiday there than anywhere in Oz, hence the numbers. Perth alone has at least 8 flights a day.

Accommodate them in nice hotels/villas/homestays with pools, air conditioning, nearby restaurants and shops, and access to cheap alcohol. What will they do? Shop and party of course.

Nothing wrong with that until you take off your clothes and walk the streets like you are at the beach. Even in Australia there's the convention as to when brief swimwear becomes underwear and it's appropriate to cover up. Men don't go to bars and restaurants shirt-less in Australia, not even where I live! So why in Bali, a conservative Hindu island, where the locals value modesty, do they spit in the face of the local culture? Because bogans don't grasp the concept of respect for others.

thank you James for kindly illustrating the point (this is in predominantly moslem Lombok BTW)

I have many friends and acquaintances who visit Bali often, and most are very respectful of the culture, but the truth is that the vast majority of visitors to this island have no interest whatsoever in the people or the culture of the location they have chosen for their cheap holiday. They hardly ever leave the south Bali tourist enclaves, they almost always eat in expatriate owned sports bars and restaurants and wouldn't go near a warung for fear of catching something nasty - like an appreciation for tasty local cuisine! The women purchase large amounts of cheap clothes and souvenirs, have daily massages, hang by the pool every day and get their hair braided and nails done before heading home. The men go to sports bars to watch football games on cable TV and drink copious amounts of beer, the youngsters party all night at the nightclubs, sleep all day and maybe take a surf lesson in the afternoon. Sounds like an awesome holiday doesn't it?

There is NOTHING WRONG with that sort of holiday, in fact I almost always have a few days at the end of my trips chilling in Bali and especially getting some massages after all the walking I've been doing. But it's not my choice for that to BE my holiday, like it is for myriads of Aussies. Of course there are many other nationalities in Bali too, but the Aussies far outnumber the others.

I overheard a conversation at the massage place whilst I was being pampered, between a retired Australian couple and the proprietress. They were moving on to Legian after a week in Sanur so wouldn't be returning for their daily massage the next day. They explained that they always tried 2 new places each trip and this was their eighth visit to Bali. I wondered whether they'd made it out of south Bali yet....

It's actually not that hard to find Balinese culture to immerse oneself in, one doesn't even need to leave the tourist enclaves - there are temples everywhere, offerings at every shop, restaurant, hotel. In fact Bali is in the middle of their 10 day Galungan-Kuningan festival at the moment so there's bunting out everywhere. But you have to wade through the westerners, get charged triple or quadruple for transport, and deal with continual hawking for business. You really could be at any tourist resort in the world.

So that's why I choose not to spend much time in Bali, because hedonistic relaxation and retail therapy is not really my thing. Well, a couple of days is OK, but truthfully, I would rather spend a few weeks on Karimunjawa than on Bali. And not be offended by my fellow patriates with their appalling dress sense or lack of respect for the local culture.

There should be a sign at the airport, along with the one about drug trafficking attracting the death penalty, that suggests that hair braiding have an age restriction. It looks cute on little girls and great on younger women, but there's a point where pulling all your hair back into tiny plaits and beads kind of accentuates rather than flatters the wrinkles.....Unless you're a black woman and then you look hot with braids at any age!

this lovely mother and daughter enjoying being girly together were kind enough to let me photograph them.

Loud and proud, are our Aussie bogans, and a Bali holiday just isn't complete without a mani, a pedi, hair beads and a couple of bags of cheap hippy clothes and souvenirs to bring home.

Damn it, must go shopping.....

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Out of Africa

From Surabaya I took a six hour train trip to Banyuwangi. Having taken my time in West Java, lazed away in Karimunjawa, contemplated buying lots of beautiful wooden furniture in Jepara, and had a few days of exploring Surabaya, I'd run out of time to do much more in East Java before I had to head home. I couldn't face another cold night camping at altitude, so had decided to forgo Bromo and Semeru for now and spend my last week in Africa!

Again I forced myself to stay awake as the whole purpose of a daytime train trip is to see the scenery but the rocking of the train makes this difficult and I did doze off from time to time. The rail line follows the coast until Probolinggo and then heads inland, skirting the mountains of the Yang Plateau and Mt Raung before arriving at the end of the line near the ferry terminal to Bali. Knowing I was staying in Banyuwangi I jumped off the train one station before at Karangasem, which is much closer to the actual town of Banyuwangi and simply a downhill walk. The inevitable ojek mafia wanted 50,000 Rp for the pleasure of delivering me to my hotel, instead I wandered along, chatted to some ladies planting rice seedlings and used the wonderful facilities of my iPhone and Google maps to find my way to a hotel. The other great advantage of walking is you get somewhat oriented to your surroundings,  and you get to note the sate warung and the baked fish restaurant for later patronage.

At the hotel were an Austrian couple and a Polish chap, newly arrived from Bromo, and off to Ijen in the morning. I think they were a little bemused at my slow wanderings through Java, as they were on much more destination driven timelines, and anyway, almost everywhere they had been or were going, I'd been to already in past trips. I'm really liking this slow travel, taking my time, going where I fancy and staying until I'm ready to move on. Of course I'd love to extend my visa and stay longer, but I've got to return to work at the end of the month. Next time, however, there won't be any return planned. Looking forward to that!

The next morning I slept in and then went wandering around town. I tried to find a motorbike to rent, without success, so just walked instead. The town is a lovely quiet place, with quite decent sidewalks, very friendly welcoming people, and a nice little Chinese temple. I'm in no hurry to leave Banyuwangi as I have a few money concerns that cause me to stay a little longer.

First, I am using a new Visa debit account from Citibank to withdraw cash from ATMs. This card doesn't charge ATM fees - these fees can account for up to $50 in every $1000 - so I'd transferred some money into this account from my usual bank account. Only it was a weekend, and computers take holidays on weekends and don't credit your new account until Monday. Or rather, they then take another 24 hours processing your transfer and don't credit your account until Tuesday. One day I could put up with, two was ridiculous, so I swallowed the fee and withdrew money on Monday from my home account.

The second reason for my dilly dallying, was that I was going to visit a national park, and since the start of May the entry prices for foreigners have sky rocketed from $2-5 per entry, to daily entry fees ranging from $15 per day on weekdays to $60 on weekends and holidays at some of the more popular parks like Bromo. This new fee system has altered my plans a little, because I can pay considerably less by avoiding weekends, and means I had to really seriously consider whether climbing Semeru (which is in Bromo NP) was worth the expense.

So, armed with the necessary cash, a couple of packets of noodles, some biscuits, snacks and water, I took a couple of bemos out to the bus station (15,000Rp), had a yummy breakfast then boarded a crowded little Situbondo bound bus (8000Rp) and was deposited at the entrance to Baluran National Park. At around about the same time a couple of French chaps also arrived, baulked at the entry price tag and were never seen again. I wasn't surprised, French backpackers seem to be genetically predisposed to refusing to pay more than 5 cents for anything, and even then they'll complain. I may exaggerate and generalise, not all French are like this, but it happens often enough with that nationality to notice.

from a Bangkok cafe (thanks Warren) but you see my point?

I marched on, got to the office proper and engaged in an around about conversation with the ranger about how many days I might stay in the park and where I might stay, and how much accommodation cost. What we didn't discuss was whether food was available at my destinations. I was under the impression there were canteens at the accommodations, but had brought noodles and snacks just in case. Lucky I did. Anyway, having completely failed to directly state how long I'd be in the park, the ranger said it was fine just to pay for one day entrance fee, so I coughed up my 150,000Rp, hoisted my backpack and started walking the 12 km through the forest to Bekol. Yes I could have got a lift, but I wanted to walk, this was a wildlife rich National Park I was entering, what better way to see it?

The road was shaded the entire way, so although it was hot and humid, I wasn't pestered by the sun. There were numerous dry creek crossings, with spots to rest whilst watching the monkeys in the trees. Mostly I was alone with the trees, birds and butterflies, but the park must be directly over the flight path from Bali, because my reverie was frequently interrupted by the sounds of the modern world flying by. A few cars and motorbikes passed me, usually with a smile and a wave, although the two foreigners I passed on the back of ojeks had the meanest frowns of all. No doubt their bums were hurting from the bumpy road! I was also passed by a group of cyclists, and one more westerner on a motorbike who stopped to enquire if I had enough water. It was only 12 km, which took me about 3 hours to walk as it was flat all the way.

Just before Bekol the trees opened up into savannah land, dotted with acacia trees. OMG! I'm in Africa!!

Baluran is unique in Java for its savannahs, which support a few species of deer, banteng, water buffalo, peafowl, a wild dog called a dohle, and leopards. And lots of long tailed macaques. Sadly, no giraffes, zebras, lions, elephants or cheetahs. Not quite Africa after all... It's rich in birdlife, and along the coastline it also has mangroves and coral reefs. Bekol is smack in the middle of one of the savannahs and has a large watch tower on top of a hill so you can look out over the grasslands and see the buffalo roaming. It also makes a great vantage point for sunrise and sunset, as the nearby mountains of Ijen, Raung and Baluran can be seen clearly. I booked in for a night, to discover there's no canteen, and the canteen down at the beach is also closed because they've taken a holiday. Oh dear, time to start food rationing....

When I return to my room after sunset I discover the cyclists from this morning also staying the night. They are 3 fellows from Jakarta, the other 2 from Singapore, all off road cycling enthusiasts. One writes for a cycling magazine, and cycles in Jakarta, what a brave chap he is! They had planned to stay at the beach but the accommodation was booked out, so they'd ridden back to Bekol. They told me the canteen at Bama was due to reopen the next day, so it looked like I wouldn't starve after all. Even better, they'd paid someone to head out to the village near the gate and purchase some food, so I joined the boys for a little rice and sate for dinner, and staved the hunger pangs.

The next morning we all rose early for the sunrise and to go animal spotting. I succeeded in neither. One of the chaps saw a huge python! I got some passable shots of the nearby peaks unencumbered by clouds. The sunrise itself was uninspiring. I then cooked up some noodles, had a cup of tea, purchased another bottle of water, said goodbye to my new cyclist friends and headed off on the walking track to Bama.

Trekking isn't really that common in Indonesia. Especially when there's a perfectly good road to the beach that you can drive down, and the road goes through the savannah so you can watch for wildlife as well. But I was having none of it, I planned to walk the walking track in, and the road back. Best of both worlds. So off I went, instructed by the ranger to turn right at the intersection. Not that I needed this bit of information, there was a ruddy great sign telling you.

Well that was the last of the signage, as the trail headed off through overgrown shrubbery, the only footprints I was following belonged to some really large water buffalo. I took a couple of wrong turns, but backtracked to the main trail and after a while noted that there were stones placed on both sides of the path to guide you. Not that the stones were particularly visible most of the time, the overgrown jungle kind of intervened. I felt pretty intrepid, but also a little foolhardy, I mean what if I actually did get lost here in the jungle? I knew it was only a couple of kilometres to the coast, but that doesn't stop a lost person going around and around in circles does it? I had food, water, shelter, I'd be fine..... why was I thinking these thoughts instead of enjoying the scenery? Well because it felt more like bush bashing than a gentle stroll along a trail.

I saw evidence of buffalo - footprints, places they'd trampled, manure - and even smelt them at times, but I never saw any. Not that I really wanted to come face to face with a large beasty out there in the bush. I frightened some peafowl and deer, saw a few more packs of macacques and crossed a small muddy river a couple of times. There's some really huge palms here, that lose all their palm leaves when they flower, and then die. They make really stark silhouettes in the sky.

At last I reached the beach, which was crowded with local tourists, secured myself a room and went for a swim. The canteen, thankfully, was open for business, and all my fears were allayed. It meant I could stay longer if I wanted.

I went for a bit of a wander along the beach, past stands of mangroves and away from the crowds at Bama. The water is really shallow for some distance out to sea, and it's muddy rather than clear water, and tepid at that. It makes for a refreshing paddle or dip, but it's not really a place to linger for long. A pity. The beach is also over run by bands of macacques so you have to keep a close eye on your possessions or the cheeky monkeys will start exploring them. My cycling friends back at Bekol had left one of their tents on the back of one of the bikes overnight, and I caught the macacques trying to rip it apart on my return to the lodge after sunrise. Cute, but destructive...

In the evening I wandered up along the road back to Bekol, seeing some large herds of deer, a flock of wild peafowl, and even sighting a dhole - the wild dog. At least I think it was a dhole. I didn't walk the whole way as that's planned for the following day, on my return out of the park. The buffalo come out of their mudholes onto the savannah in the evening, so it's the best time to spot them.

The next morning I got up for sunrise and took some lovely long exposure shots before a momentary lapse saw my tripod upended and my camera in the ocean. Guess who has just fucked up her camera?

I immediately tried to drain the water and rinse off the salt water with a little fresh water but I'm pretty sure it's buggered. The memory card is fine, so I won't lose any shots, in fact the two photos here are from the fateful shoot. I've still got the iPhone to take photos, and at least it's the end of my holidays not the start, so I'm not lugging around a heavy piece of equipment for nothing.

After a few hours Bama beach becomes unbearable. The rooms are stifling hot as you can't get air through them by opening doors and windows due to the marauding monkeys. There's no electricity except for a few hours in the evening, so no fans either. The beach is either full of Indonesian tourists being noisy and asking me to be included in their photographs, or alternatively the monkeys hassle you. Finding a quiet spot to just read a book and munch on some snacks in the cool shade means being stalked by increasingly aggressive male monkeys. In the end I packed up and sat near the guard post in the shade for a couple of hours, read my book and waited for the heat of the day to wane.

I headed off back to Bekol along the road. The herds of deer were still there as were the macacques. I also saw a band of black faced monkeys, much larger than the macaques and much more camera shy. On the savannah I spied a group of buffalo wallowing in the mud so I crept over as close as I dared. Then I continued on to Bekol, dropped off the backpack and returned to the savannah for sunset and to see the buffalo emerge from their mudbath and meander over to a nearby waterhole. I also saw a beautiful peacock, and a Jabiru.

Up early the next morning I cooked up some noodles for breakfast then hit the road early, before the sun really got some punch. The road was less shaded than it had been 2 days ago, but it wasn't that hot at 7am. It was still 12 km to walk, and by 9:45 I was back at the entrance gate, dousing my head in cold water and contemplating the next leg of my trip.

I'd really recommend Baluran, but I'd suggest staying at Bekol rather than Bama. Not only is it cheaper, it's much quieter, you have a few other options for birdwatching and wildlife watching than what I did, the monkeys are not as aggressive, and you can always go down the beach if you want. To go snorkelling, you need to go out on a boat as it's just mangroves and shallow water at Bama itself. Of course, you need to be more self sufficient at Bekol - and there's a rat that will try to eat your food if you leave it out...

So, after Baluran??

Bogan's paradise of course!

(there are a few more pictures here)

Saturday, May 24, 2014

City of heroes, food, cigarettes, coffee, sharks and crocodiles

Surabaya is a bit different from your average Indonesian city. Despite being the second biggest city in Java, it feels more like a large provincial town. It's traffic is ordered by a network of one way streets, meaning it doesn't take long before you have a striking sense of de-ja-vue as you pass the same malls and government buildings, always going in the same direction.

By a lucky turn of events I ended up being hosted by Juffry, a newcomer to couchsurfing and I was his first guest. My original host decided to move house ( I'm sure my references aren't that bad!!) so I ended up with Juffry. I'm so glad that happened, because Juffry was a fantastic host and a great guy.

I arrived in Surabaya after an 8 hour air conditioned bus ride from Jepara. I decided to go for a little comfort after so many long, squashed together, overcrowded, hot and sweaty economy bus rides on back seats in the last few weeks. Instead I nabbed a seat up the front and forced myself not to be rocked to sleep as we traversed the north coast road, past rice paddies green with new growth or yellow with a crop ready for harvest, past fleets of brightly painted fishing boats, past brick factories and fish farms and through a few quite pleasant looking towns. It's an area I wouldn't mind exploring a little closer, perhaps on a bike. From Surabaya's bus station I grabbed a cab and arrived at Juffry's in less than 30min.

Juffry is from Makassar, in South Sulawesi, but grew up in Surabaya with his grandparents, before moving to Singapore as a teenager. Then he studied animation in Brisbane for 3 years before returning back to Singapore, failing to get a job, and drifting into the hospitality industry. Starting out washing dishes and being a kitchen hand, he worked his way around a few kitchens and learnt a great deal. Turns out his real passion is food. Then in 2009 he returned to Surabaya to help care for his ageing grandfather, and has been there since. His grandfather has since passed on, and Juffry continues to live in the old house. Which is where I got to stay.

Introductions over, we headed out to dinner. Nasi Rawon was Juffry's choice, and we went to this warung known as "calculator" because the waiters do an impressive mental arithmetic tally of your order and turn it into a bit of a performance. Nasi Rawon is beef, mostly offal, in a rice soup. You can chew on some extra liver or tripe with it if you so desire. It's a really yummy dish, we fail to appreciate the deliciousness of well cooked offal in most of the west these days.

The next morning Juffry took me to his shop. He has a small restaurant selling one dish, a traditional beef soup from Makassar called Coto Makassar. Not only did he research the recipe and find some old women to teach him, but he puts a huge effort into creating the perfect stock and spices, with no MSG. He's struggling to get customers, due to being in an out of way alley, because anyone who eats his Coto will want to come back for more. Its traditionally eaten with lontong and a special chilli sauce. He makes the lontong and sauce himself, weaves the little packets himself, the whole experience is imbued with care and attention to detail. So, if anyone reads this and wants to go eat there, the shop is in Manyar kertoarjo 4, near warung Bu Kris. If the shop moves, I'll let you know.
Juffry has now moved to Bali, he now works at Waroeng de Daun, Jl. Pengubengan Kauh No. 559, Kerobokan, Kuta, Bali, Indonesia.

After breakfast I waited for another local Surabayan to go sightseeing with me, but after some initial enthusiasm the chap disappeared off the face of the earth and failed to show, and stopped messaging me. My experience with couchsurfing in Indonesia has been a bit mixed, with a number of people offering to host or show me around, but when I've contacted them immediately prior to arrival, or once I've arrived in town for meetups, many of them fail to answer back or are too busy with their lives to host or meet up afterall. It is a bit bizarre to offer when you know your life is too busy to be able to follow through. Those people I have met, or who have hosted me, OTH, have been fantastic hosts and people I'd like to keep in touch with.

So, with Juffry busy all day in the shop, and my couchsurfing "friend" vanishing, I headed off on a sightseeing tour by myself. I had intended to take an angkot, but somehow I just kept wandering, in fact I walked all day through the streets of Surabaya, negotiating the traffic (just keep walking....) and finding a few little gems. There's still some quite decent old districts of Surabaya, and a fair collection of old Dutch buildings, some tastefully restored and others simply falling apart. There's a China town and an Arab quarter, but we'll touch on them later.

There's a series of canals and rivers that wind their way through Surabaya, many of the canals having quite nice little parks adjoining them. Almost hidden by overgrown weeds beside the river is a concrete crocodile and a concrete shark. Why these bizarre, almost forgotten statues you ask? Well Surabaya is actually the shortening of two old Javan words, for Shark and Crocodile. The mythology of the battle between the shark and the crocodile goes back a long way, some saying it signifies the battle between the old Hindu Majahapit Kingdom and the new Islam, but I suspect it goes back further than that.

This story of battle and conquest is a common one, and Surabaya is one city where heroes are celebrated. It's a city where Independence from Dutch colonialism was fought for, and won, and there's a few monuments erected, a few statues to commemorate, and a little official graffiti making it perfectly clear that a newly liberated Indonesian nation didn't want the Dutch to come back after the Japanese occupation, or for the Allied forces liberators to make themselves at home. For all its problems, and mistakes made along the way, Indonesia's done an amazing job of somehow governing so many different islands, cultures, languages and religions. And these days as a democracy!!

After an exhausting day walking hundreds of kilometres, Juffry took me to his favourite Tahu Tek place. Tahu Tek is a Surabaya specialty, it's actually a variation on gado gado, with tofu and lontong mixed in a spicy peanut sauce and lots of crackers loaded on top. It's the perfect comfort food, but is completely unphotogenic. Sorry...

After dinner we headed to the posh Surabaya Plaza to meet up with a couple of other local couchsurfers. Deavin is a psychotherapist who is also an author and accomplished musician, and he wanted my opinion on a new psychology book he is writing. Why he wanted my opinion is a puzzle, but I freely gave it since he was so obsessed with his theory that it seemed only right to be helpful. It's a self help book he's writing, which is kind of about getting that work life balance sorted, with a guide to how to do it. It made sense what he was saying, it wasn't crap, so hopefully he'll be able to make a million selling books to people who only want to read about how to improve their lives, not actually make changes. So shoot me, I'm a bit of a cynic...

Also with Deavin was Ikeu, who teaches English at an International school. Luckily she doesn't teach geography, because it's not her strong point. Unfortunately she got a little guide to Australia by yours truly, complete with bad drawings of sharks and other creepy crawlies. Oh damn, I forgot to mention the drop bears.....

The next morning I grabbed a cab to the Arab quarter of Surabaya. It's centred around a mosque and grave of one of the founders of Islam in Indonesia, so it's a pretty sacred place. The mosque can only be entered on foot, through narrow alleys lined with shops selling Islamic paraphernaila. Men and women need to be wearing the requisite headgear to visit the mosque, so I had to rustle up a scarf to cover my head before I could enter. Not a problem when every second shop is selling the stuff.

I literally wandered around the Arab quarter for hours, wandering up and down small lanes, chatting to people, doing a little portrait photography and some clandestine shoot from the hip street photography. I'm still learning but happy with a few shots. Had some fun with a few people and kids who were keen for me to photograph them, others don't know...

I stopped for Soto Ayam, or chicken soup. It's served as a rice stew and this one throws in a chicken foot for a little added charm. Mmmm...

After I'd visited the mosque it was time to head further west to The House of Sampoerna. This is probably Surabaya's number one tourist attraction amongst foreigners because 1. it's free; 2. its well presented and has English language guides (also free); 3. has a great cafe that sells western food, eastern food and real yes REAL COFFEE (this isn't free); 4. you can watch the factory workers handrolling the cigarettes from an observation deck above the factory floor, which is freaking amazing to watch and 5. they have a free tourist bus tour you can go on.

OK, so the House of Sampoerna is a cigarette company, founded by a young Chinese orphaned immigrant, but now owned by big bad Phillip Morris. They make the famous kretek cigarettes Dji Sam Djoe, which are pretty well banned in the rest of the world as having a dangerously high tar content. Kretek are clove cigarettes, or rather a combination of tobacco and clove, and are the unmistakeable aroma of Java. Kretek refers to the sound the cloves make as the cigarette burns. The cigarettes are handrolled and packaged, and watching the ladies do this is quite an experience. You're not allowed to film it, so I'll just have to describe it. They place the tobacco/clove mix onto a cotton belt in the rolling machine, roll the tobacco by bringing the roller over it, place the paper on the belt below the rolled tobacco and bring the roller the whole way down, wrapping the tobacco and quickly sealing it closed. Then someone else clips the ends clean and packages them up into boxes etc. The time it takes these ladies to roll cigarettes is phenomenal, they look like the funny motion you see in early moving pictures from the 20s and 30s, they are so fast and there's that repetitive stop start movement as they place each paper that gives it that weirdness to it. It's really fast, but jerky. Oh you'll just have to go see for yourself...

Phillip Morris aren't too keen on keeping this tradition though, and two factories have already retrenched 5000 workers as cigarette rolling gets done by machines instead of people. Sadly, we are talking about an industry that creates illness and cancer, but I'd still like to see people with jobs. Phillip Morris doesn't care about the former or the latter!!

After my sojourn at the house of cancer and damn fine coffee I continued my walking tour of Surabaya. That's because I missed the bus - the free bus tour as mentioned above - because I was savouring a rather delicious iced REAL COFFEE in the cafe AND THE BUS LEFT EARLY!! Without me. Oh well, I needed to return the next day to see the ladies rolling cigarettes (they finish at 1pm so get there before 12 peeps) so I could give you that damn fine description - see above - and maybe I just might need another REAL COFFEE!!!

So, north I trotted, trying to find Kalimas Harbour, where the wooden pinisis of Surabaya load their cargo. This is Surabaya's equivalent of Sunda Kelapa in Jakarta. Unfortunately i took an angkot to the ferry terminal but after a wander around there and a chat to the chaps at the harbourmaster's office, they told me where to go and I walked right on back the way I'd come. The wharf is huge, loading many smaller boats, not just the wooden ones, but large steel boats as well. This is mostly cargo for Kalimantan, I mean you wouldn't want these boats out on the open sea stacked like this!!

The wharf actually extends a few kilometres in length, so it was quite a walk from the northern entrance to the southern one, but soon I was wheeling my way home in a motorised becak. It's quite a fun way to see the city, up front in your little seat at the same level as all the motorbikes. It's a bit too close to all those exhaust fumes though...and beware that you have the exact amount you've bargained your becak driver down to, because he'll insist he doesn't have change...

What with all that walking, I was in need of a massage. Just across the road was a traditional massage place which Juffry recommended, and he booked me in with his friend Kiki. This place is totally genuine, it even has a sign out front saying "no sex", because really, so many massage parlours in Asia are nothing of the sort....

I waited a few minutes for Kiki to be ready and was ushered to my cubicle, told to strip off and given a pair of disposable panties to wear and ordered a cup of ginger tea. Then the firewalking began. It starts the usual way, with an oil massage, and then Kiki starts using her feet. There's a couple of rails for her to keep her balance as she literally walked all over me. Then, when I was pummelled enough, it was into the steam room - individual cubicles with a hole in the door for you to put your head out of whilst the rest of your body sweats out all those impurities. Then into the shower for a wash down, nice clean towel and back to the cubicle to dress and finish the ginger tea. All this took an hour and a half, cost $9 plus tip to the masseur, and left me feeling pretty good, if just a bit sore. Then Kiki joined Juffry and I for dinner at a Sate Kambing (that's goat peeps) place before I sunk into blissful unconsciousness.

The next morning I headed to the nearby Gubeng Railway Station to purchase a train ticket to Banyuwangi. Instead of heading to Bromo to climb Semeru I've decided to spend my final week in a National Park at the eastern tip of Java. Having begun with Ujung Kulon in the west it seems only natural to end with Baluran. Gubeng has two station offices, the one on the main road services trains heading west, the one on the back road services trains heading south and east. Bizarrely, they don't have a bridge between the two so I had to go back down the road I'd just come, cross the track and head back up another road to reach the station office for the train to Banyuwangi. I bought my ticket, had a passable Soto Ayam, and headed back to the house via a convoluted wander through nearby kampungs, chatting with the locals and taking more pictures of the street art.

Back at the house, Juffry was home, taking a break from the shop, so we headed out for the best Soto Ayam in Surabaya. This is called Soto Ayam Ambengan, and having had soto ayam already for breakfast I was in a position to compare. Indeed, the flavour of the soup/stew/stock was far superior to what I'd had for breakfast. Learning about the different foods with Juffry has been fantastic, and one of the great joys of meeting local people rather than hanging out with other westerners. Though it's nice to do that too, and in fact after leaving Juffry at the restaurant I jumped in a cab back to the House of Cancer to catch the ladies at their rolling machines and book back on the free bus tour. I chatted away to a retired couple from London whilst I was waiting for the bus to leave - no savouring that coffee until afterwards!!

The bus tour took us past old Dutch buildings, now converted into office space for local banks, and stopped at Tugu Palahwan. This is a memorial to the Independence of Indonesia, and features the usual symbol of freedom in this country, a massive phallus. Of course it's no where near as huge as Monas, but you get the message nonetheless...

Next on the tour, and our only other stop, was the offices of a sugar company. Originally a private Dutch company, it's a beautiful building with a Moorish exterior, Delft tiling, and some wonderful carved marble scenes depicting colonialisation, exploitation of natives for foreign gain and imposition of a foreign culture. Of course when these scenes were commissioned they would have been proud exclamations of the might of the Dutch empire, but now, they seem somewhat ironic. Especially when paired with the sugar company's modern mascot!!

Back at the house of cancer I enjoyed another REAL COFFEE at the cafe with my London friends before going on a Batik hunt. I'd seen a couple of tulis batik in the gift shop that I liked and the friendly staff had given me the address of a larger gallery where I might be able to find more examples at a somewhat more agreeable price. So into a taxi I hopped and after a little wandering, found the gallery, but unfortunately not the batik I was looking for. Another gallery, not far from Juffry's place, also failed to deliver, so Juffry very kindly drove me back to the house of cancer and I bought the two original pieces. I'd been on the lookout for this sort of piece for my friend Erin, who runs a small artisan's shop in Geraldton, and was glad to be able to find something for her. We are so lucky to have mobile cameras and Facebook, so easy to snap off a couple of shots and send a message to a friend to ask if this is what she'd like.

Next morning, after somehow packing all the batik pieces into my backpack, Juffry drove me to the train station and I took a 6 hour train ride to Banyuwangi.

For more Surabaya photos, you'll find them here