Smog, Colourful Shadow Puppets and a Quite Drink

Trip Start Feb 19, 2010
Trip End Jan 31, 2012

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Where I stayed
Bloem Steen Homestay

Flag of Indonesia  , Java,
Sunday, September 11, 2011

Day 1 – Transit
Had had the option of a 6am or 12pm flight and had decided on the 12pm flight since I wasnt sure hoe easy it would be to get out to the airport. In the end not so hard since some bivoc where waiting out in front of the hotel.

Found Bandha Aceh airport to be quite nice for such a small town. Definitely better than the terminal I flew into at Jakarta. From the air could see a layer of grey covering the city and a pale blue sky even though there were no clouds. Am guessing that there is quite a layer of smog settling over the city.

From the airport got the bus to the train station then once I got my orientation went to look for a hostel. Before that though grabbed something to eat and had a local start chatting with me. Again, even in a big city, find locals to be friendly and chatty without wanting something in return.

Mad my way to my cell of a room and then went for a bit of a wander around the nearby streets. Needed to check my emails and while I could find an internet cafe I did manage to find some WIFI even if it was crap. In the end managed to read my emails but failed to get it to send a reply. Really crap connection.

From here headed back to the hostel and pretty much called it a night.

Day 2 – Kota, Puppet Museum, Out for a Drink
Went for breakfast at a restaurant around the corner from the hostel since it had WIFI and I wanted to check a couple of things such as whether the email reply I had tried to send had been sent, it hadnt. Ended up resending my reply to Emma and also managed to get one blog entry done before running out of power and leaving.

From here needed to head to the train station (walked) to buy a ticket for my trip to Yogyakarta the following morning. Tried Passan Sennan first since I thought both morning trains left from here and because this station had cheaper tickets. Unfortunately found that each train had its own ticket window and the ticket window for the train to Yogjakarta was closed.

Decided to head to Gambir station to but a ticket since the later morning train ran from here and I was hoping that it would be possible to buy a ticket in advance at this station. Found that unlike the previous station this one had a number of windows that sold tickets to all destinations. Guess that if this hadnt been the case I would have had to have found a travel agent.

From here decided to head to Koto which required finding a bijaj. Was expecting the ride to cost me about the same as a taxi which given the rates listed in the guide book should have been around the 20,000R price range. Was given prices ranging from 30,000 – 50,000 but eventually managed to get one for the 20,000R I was looking for.

The guy I had driving didnt have much english and ended up having to get hime to drop me off at a nearby street rather than the train station. Ended up getting dropped off fairly close but took me a while to orient myself from where I was dropped off. Seems like this street has lots of shops and lots of people selling things on the street.

At one point had someone come up to me, say sorry mister and act as if they were wiping something off my leg. Rather than stop I kept walking and ignored them since I was pretty sure it was just an attempt to distract me in order for them or a friend to pick my pocket. When I looked at where the guy had been wiping my pants found that there was nothing there so seems likely it was a pick pocket attempt. Even if they had tried the pants I had had all zip pockets so they would have desired anything they could have picked if they suceeded.

Found Koto to be a bit rundown and full of lots of old dutch colonial buildings. Also lots of people. Especially older kids. In the main square found a number of street vendor, performers and lots of places where you could rent a bike, which seemed popular.

From the square wandered into the Wayang puppet museum which was interesting. Always nice to visit somewhere a little different. Here I found lots of normal 3D Indonesian puppets as well as a large collection of shaddow puppets and a few international puppets including a couple from Poland. Found it interesting how much detail the puppets all seem to have and how the shadow puppets are painted even though the audience can only see the puppets shadow on the puppet screen.

While no shadow puppet show was on a normal puppet play was on. Here it seemed that there was a lot of music singling and talking but not much puppet movement. Basically the puppets that were in the current scene were place onto the main puppet stage and then just left standing there while the band played and the puppet master sang and talked.

While wandering around here I also remembered what Emma had mentioned about the plays. It seems that a normal shadow puppet play runs for 12hours. Can image the players in the band being able to take a bit of a break during the show but it must be a real challenge for the puppet master to do a performance for such a long time. This though only happens in Indonesian. When the puppet shows go international the shows only last 2hrs.

Watched a bit of the puppet play before leaving but with the show being in Indonesia it was a little bit to hard to follow what was going on. Headed back to the square and then to the canal to check out some of the colonial buildings. From here wandered around the streets for a bit and once again had some locals just started chatting with me without wanting anything in return.

After wandering a bit I once again managed to get a ride back for 20,000R. This time though the bijaj ended up breaking down before reaching my destination. Found the driver had to basically open up the motor, pull out the spark pug and clean it. This cleaning basically involved scrapping off the rust that was stopping the spark plug from sparking.

Worth noting that Jakarta is full of smog. Found that you had a red sunset over an hour before the sun reached the horizon and even with a clear sky the horizon was a dull grey colour and the sky a pale blue one. Was also interesting to note the contrast between building in the area. Lots of 1-2 story tin roofed houses around the place with the odd high rise in the middle (mostly hotels near where I was) or a richer looking building. Doesnt seem as if the rich and poor are as segregated in the city and it seems comon to find a richer looking house sourrounded by a whole bunch of poor ones.

Headed back to my hotel for a while before heading out to meet Emma for a drink and going out to grab some. Ended up chatting till 12 before calling it a night.

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