Wednesday, December 30, 2009

funny, large primates... & orangutans

We just arrived in Banjarmasin after spending 2 nights on a boat viewing the orangutans. The boat is smaller, 2 levels and had a crew of 4 (cook, captain, guide and the deckhand). We sleep up top in the open air with a mattress and mosquito net. On the first day we saw several types of monkeys (proboscis, macaque, gibbons) from the boat as we travelled down the river. On the first day we stopped at a feeding station, used to give supplemental feed to orphan/injured orangutans that were returned to the wild. We watched as a large male ate his bananas and cassava root. He was an intimidating fellow!

Then we docked along the edge for the night. The next day we went to another feeding station and saw several orangutans; moms and babies and assorted single adults. Unfortunately there ended up being around 20 other tourists there and some were not respecting the rules of not touching or feeding directly. So we left early and walked around the area. We were fortunate to come across a wild boar mom and her 6 piglets (boarlets?). I nicknamed them Bacon & Bacon Bits. (I've always imagined that if I ever had an acreage I'd rescue a few livestock and give them ironic names like for chickens I'd call them: noodle & nugget). That night we again docked along the river to watch the amazing fireflies. It is hard to describe but they twinkle in the palm fronds like Christmas lights. I've never seen anything like it. One even landed on me & was quite neat to see up close. However, we soon had to abandon our first dock site. We could hear loud splashing and palm frond trunks snapping. After the crew and us debated whether it was a crocodile or an orangutan, we decided it sounded like a strong and angry orangutan. Then we moved down the river! There is a potential that orangutans that are released may come looking for food on the boat. The idea of waking up to a hungry, large, strong, hairy red primate going through your stuff is rather unsettling. We did in fact see one female orangutan at the second feeding station eyeing up a banana bunch on a docked boat.

So now we are in Banjarmasin for the night with plans to fly to manado via Jakarta in the morning. Manado is in a good snorkeling area so we are hopeful we can find a place to stay. Today we went out to the mall and more so than in other areas of Indonesia we are quite the spectacle. If I interpret the stares, pointing and laughing correctly, we are quite hilarious. I just respond with a big smile and everyone smiles back and continues to giggle. In all fairness we are both giants by local averages.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

wedding crashers

So yesterday, Dec 27 (today in Canada), we had a 3 hour drive to Semarang. Along the way the driver asked if he could stop to say Hi to his friend who was getting married. We of course agreed. The driver insisted we come into the reception. So here we are in this beautiful, formal Muslim wedding where everyone is dressed in their finest, with all the women in gorgeous Hijabs, while Jason and I are in beach ware. Everyone is smiling and so friendly but I wonder if they are thinking "who are these slobby wedding crashers?" And of course the reception was being filmed so we will live on in memory and digitally! We proceeded through the entire reception line with me extending my one hand for shaking to which each person grasped it in both hands. Only after did I clue in that I was supposed to extend both hands in a closed prayer like stance and then they would grasp them both. Then many people wanted us to stay and eat! Not only did we just finish a huge breakfast we did not want to insult anyone with our need for vegetarian food, so we declined, which was also probably insulting, but I hope not too much!

So we made it to Semarang and were put up in the Hotel Grasia by the airline who had to change our flight until today. The hotel is decent. clean, free wifi, free breakfast, tv, AC, and all for about 35 CDN a night (free for us). Last night we found a veg place in china town called, HA HA Vegetarian, and had a great meal with the nicest owners, who refused to take our tip. Afterwards we asked the owners where the Buddhist Tak Kay Sie Temple was and they insisted on driving us! We decided they seemed fine and we hitched the 10 min drive with the family to the temple. Once at the temple and older lady insisted on taking us around so that we placed the incense in the correct order at the different altars. After a friendly man chatted us up about the area. We did get into and odd conversation about washrooms in which the man commented that it was a pity that I, as a woman, could not just pee into the river easily. I must say it was the dirtiest river I have ever seen!

In all my travels this has been the most friendly place!

Friday, December 25, 2009

one more day in Borobudur

We are staying one more night (tonight) in Borobudur so that we can take a direct flight tomorrow to Pangkalanbun by the Tajung Puting National Park to see the orangutans. We will be picked up by a river house boat and stay on it for 2 nights and trek into the jungle to see the orangutans.

Yesterday we went to the Borobudur a huge and ancient Buddhist monument with over 500 Buddha statues. We went before sunrise and saw the sun peek through the over cast sky. On Christmas eve we had the amazing experience of meditating at the Mendut temple. It was a great place to do Tonglen Meditation , which is a method of connecting with suffering and awakening compassion. I had a lovely & peaceful experience.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

the chicken incident

It's not really my fault, but all the same, one local thinks I am obsessed with chickens. Mind you the chickens here are quite striking. They are really tall, like 2 feet, skinny and with long long legs, the better to out run your camera with. (I know this as I made Jason make several attempts at getting a shot of these elusive creatures. Perhaps one of the many signs when added together does in fact make me look a little chicken obsessed). There hasn't been a huge abundance of critters so of course on this mornings trip to the temples I made several observations to our guide about the chickens scurrying about. He in turn humoured me with facts about how the chickens return home at night on their own etc, & i remarked in awe about the difference in stature and plummage to our fat factory farmed chickens; I submit to you evidence #2. but seriously you have to see these freaky athletic chickens! Then conversation at some point turned to the fact that we are vegetarian. So of course all of this led to our guide taking an impromtu detour to show me a chicken market with the many types of chickens available that are used for singing/crowing competitions. I saw jungle chickens, fancy chickens, white chickens, and even one very prestigious lazy chicken who had the best cage. So there may now be a misunderstanding that canadians love chickens or that I am just a weirdo.

Ps the guide informed me that cooked jackfruit tastes like chicken. Seriously, you can't make that up.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


We are staying in the amazing Amanjiwo Resort which is breath taking with each room a villa and an amazing pool. It is is surrounded by misty hills, rice paddies and jungle. There are geckos, grasshoppers, butterflies, finches and giant bumblebees all around. It is an ironic place to contemplate the terrific book I am reading on how individuals can end world by donating their share to aid agencies. The book moves beyond guilt and proposes a calculation system to determine how much each person, based on income, should give. I highly recommend the book as it delves into a detailed ethical analyses of not only our responsibilities but how, even unintentionally, we in developed countries contribute to poverty in developing nations; The Life you Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty Written by Peter Singer, (click the title to learn more and read an excerpt).

The food, people and sights have been amazing. Everyone is so kind and lovely. This morning we had a slightly funny incident. As many of you know Jason & I are long time vegetarians but recently we have been cutting back on dairy, and avoiding eggs as well. The hotel staff are aware we are vegetarian and have been so accommodating. Jason ordered the the fruit salad this morning and the waiter soon came back to explain that it contained yogurt. Jason misunderstood the option for replacement of the said yogurt and ended up with a lovely fruit salad in a bowl of orange juice. ;)

This morning we are heading out to see some small temples and this evening we will spend time with some local monks, meditating and chanting! I will report more on that later.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Today was our first full day on vacation. We slept 15 hours last night and are still feeling the jetlag. We went to a Buddhist temple this morning that is from the 1600's. We also went to a great vegan restaurant called "the loving hut". At one point we ended up in a store similar to home depot to escape the rain. I have never seen rain like this! Tomorrow we fly to Borobudur. I am trying put my new blogger iPhone app with this post so we'll see how well it works :)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Why We Travel

An excerpt from Why We Travel: A Love Affair with the World by Pico Iyer; "We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again-to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more." - I could not have said it better myself. The entire article is well worth the read.

Our next adventure takes us on our longest journey yet; 5 weeks traipsing through Indonesia. We leave December 19, 2009 and arrive in Jakarta and stay at the Hyatt. After a few days we will head to Borobudur an ancient Buddhist temple and stay at the Amanjiwo Hotel. I am looking forward to hiking, meditation and reflection. After this we are planning time in Borneo to visit Orangutans at the Tanjung Puting National Park

We arrive back in Calgary January 22, 2010. The rest of the time in Indonesia has yet to be planned. I look forward to the wandering.

PS I've included a photo of the gear I am taking. One back pack, one purse sized carry on. The essential gear I have includes; flippers, snorkel/mask, camera, clothes (in red stuff sack), Iphone (with roaming turned off so I don't have a repeat of the enormous mexican phone bill) running shoes, flip flops (plus one pair of slip on vans that I'll wear on the plane), big bag of medicine (grey and burgundy bag), bag of toiletries, travel towel, jacket (takes up too much room! - the black roll next to red stuff sack in the picture), 4 books ... & still lots of room!