and home away from home in Kuala Lumpur
10.05.2008 33 °C
I've been trying to convince myself to eat something really local on this big ol' world trip at least once. Well, on my first night in Yogyakarta I had pigeon. It still had its head and beak on, so I left that bit. Actually, it wasn't too bad. And in all seriousness, there's way worse stuff to eat in Cambodia, I just never had the guts to try then (or perhaps it's just my hatred for pigeons after all those years of cleaning pigeon droppings from my old Honda's bonnet every morning before work). So for the last few days I have been in Indonesia. I'm in a little city called Yogyakarta. It's famous for one of the world's most famous Buddhist ruins - Borobudur - its monolithic. And also for some Hindu ruins - Prambanan - and lots of volcanoes. As I flew in, I could see a number of volcano's peaking out from above the clouds - just immense. After four days, I think it's safe to say that I will be enjoying Indonesia very much. It's pretty different from other south east Asian countries. One thing that stands out as soon as you get here are road crossings. It's something of a suicide mission attempting to cross main roads here - there are so many hordes of bikes flowing down main roads that the traffic simply doesnt stop flowing - you have to kind of find a small gap (very rare) and wander across into the lanes (very slowly) facing the oncoming traffic (very bravely) and start waving your hand around (a little desperately in my case) at the scooters and cars. You gradually get across. They don't always slow down very much, but a sort of slipstream develops in front of you and its possible to walk away unscathed!
A sight for sore eyes were 'scooter-guards.' They wave down motorcyclists, who pull over, hand the bike to the guard to park, tip the guard, and leave their helmet with him. There are literally legions of these uniformed guys guarding the many thousands of bikes all over the city's pavements.
Saturday nights are usually reserved for open-air music concerts by the look of things. So I enjoyed wandering the streets for a while, watching the shows. Tourists are not present in huge numbers here... so locals keep taking pictures of me. Maybe its the immaculate, designer beard.
I signed up for a volcano walk....... some would see this as a silly thing to do, as Mount Merapi is one of the world's most active volcano's. Nonetheless, I joined a group to the volcano and off we trudged at 1am to get to the top. Nerves hadn't been made any better by continual commentery in our group along the lines of: "It hasn't blown in nearly two years... what's the worst that could happen?!" Walking in steep furrows and narrow water run-offs made for some adventurous muddy wipe-outs on the way up, but after nearly 4 hours the group arrived at the top of Merapi (2914 meters). Just in time too, my dodgy torch that I rented was busy spluttering to death and it was still pitch black. The smell of sulphur was incredibly strong.
So, what's at the top of a volcano??? I wasn't sure what to expect - a crater lake full of bright red lava perhaps?! No, instead there are lots of rocks, hot steam vents and some icy winds. The effects of previous eruptions was clear - for the top few hundred meters of the mountain there is nothing but lava rocks, and no life whatsoever. I sat on a vent for a while to keep warm - it was seriously chilly and I didnt want to risk the cold, regardless of how comical it may have looked!
The dawn broke and I must say, it nearly brought tears to my eyes. Well not quite, but it was very beautiful. Got lots of pics but will have to display them another time as I can't upload here (too sloooooooooooooooow).
KL and the Legend of Dup du Plessis:
So prior to arriving in Indonesia a few days ago, I spent ten days with Dr Don Juan "Dup" du Plessis, an old mate from school days and East London (South Africa), who has the nasty habit of always bragging about that swimming record he broke when he was 13, back in 1687. After arriving in Kuala Lumpur, we stayed on a mate's 20th floor balcony looking over the KL skyline, sipping ice cold Tiger beers til 5am, getting an hour's sleep and heading off to the Cameron Highlands for some forest exploring. The Cameron Highlands are stunning. The dense forest growth, the size of the trees, the size of the whole forest - its breathtaking. We stayed in a backpackers called Daniel's where the owners have a deep grudge against the Lonely Planet for comments made two years ago about 'Spartan" rooms and some other stuff in their 'On a Shoestring' issue. There's a big blunt sign at the door that between many four lettered words, seems to indicate that LP travel writers are not welcome. After asking about it, and being drawn into a long discussion on why the LP is a crock of bull, I made a mental note not to bring up the topic again. The entertainment and transport for the weekend was provided by Francois and Jana - two ex-pats living in KL, hailing from Cape Town. Ah, good times!
We headed back in Boesman (F&J's old Landcruiser) to KL where I spent the remainder of the week. There's enough to see in the city - the bird park, the Pretonas towers, the KL Tower, the National Museum, but it was great to just chill out in one place for a while, without packing my life into a bag again (backpacking quarter life crisis??!!) I must admit - sometimes you crave malls, big screens and McDonalds burgers. KL is certainly a step ahead of most of south east Asia - it is an advanced and heavily built-up city. I can't compare to Singapore yet, as I've spent no time there so far, but I imagine its the next biggest economy in the region. It has a number of advanced sky/overhead rail systems - it makes getting around the city quite easy. Its also not as massive a city as I thought - 40 minutes by rail to any destination is lengthy. Many people reside in high-rise apartments looking over the city.
I also spent a day in Melaka (ie. Straights of Malacca) - the old trade city of the east. Its immensely historic and well worth a visit. The Portuguese were there in 1511, then the Dutch, the Brits, Japanese - everyone seems to have had a piece of the pie.
Malays love food. There are food markets and stands EVERYWHERE. Food is a major part of the culture. The people are split into three major groups: Malays, Chinese and Indians - its amazing that they get on so well, there aren't many countries in the world with such diversity.
Anyway, tomorrow I'm off to Gunung Bromo and then Bali. Til next time, sampai jumpa...
Pics to come in the next week (i think).