March 19, 2017
Today is day 74 of our 180 day cruise. It seems impossible to believe that this many days have passed, but we are not yet half way through our trip. And each day is fascinating in some way or another. Our port today is Java. 150 million people live here in a very small space – the island is 661 miles long and between 60 and 100 miles wide depending on the area which makes it the most populated island on earth. 90% of the people here are Muslim with some Catholic and some Buddhist people. It is a former Dutch colonial city and there is an old town area with some buildings built in Dutch colonial times. It is nicknamed Little Netherland!
As we arrived into the port this morning, we saw a very long concrete seawall with many people fishing from it. There was a space between the two sections so the fishermen had to get out there by boat. The water came up over their feet – not sure if it is low or high tide, but I would imagine they don’t do it if the water is much deeper.
We chose to take the shuttle to the town. It took about 30 minutes and dropped us off at a shopping center in the middle of central Java. On our way there, we saw just how much traffic there is in this city. Many people use motorbikes and there are sometimes entire families on them, infants, children and adults. They do also have these pedicabs and horse drawn carts. Since it is Sunday, there ae many families out and about and the streets and markets are pretty crowded.
We passed Simpang Lima which means five ways – it is esentially a big park with five streets leading off of it. In the middle there were lots of family activities going on. Kids were riding on small cars and there were picnics and general hustle and bustle.
One thing that goes on here (which I cannot believe) is that street performers come out IN THE MIDDLE OF THE INTERSECTION when there is a red light and dance for money! They then go to the motorbikes and cars to collect from the people. Here’s one of them.
They call their two seasons here – “rainy and drainy”! The rainy season is October – April. No rain here today but we heard that it mostly happens at night. It is about 90 degrees here, and pretty humid too. Most of the sights to see are pretty far from the port so our quest was to update our devices with fast internet, see some of the city and generally observe the people and learn more about the place.
The shopping center is pretty much like an American one. There are shops like we have at home, including the Body Shop, Starbucks, McDonalds, jewelry kiosks, Pierre Cardin, etc. A good number of the women and girls wore head scarves, but we didn’t see any full burkas like in the UAE countries. In fact, having our coffee in Starbucks looked like any one of the ones we go to in Philadelphia, including the diversity! They did sell Komodo Dragon coffee, though. You probably don’t find that outside of Indonesia!
We were able to get very fast internet while we had our coffee so we updated all of our apps, backed up our iphones and ipad and took care of some other things online that are impossible to do with the slow speed on the ship. I also had a lovely and relaxing pedicure at half the price of the ship’s Canyon Ranch pedicure!
The general impression of central Java is that it is crowded, sometimes looking pretty dirty and there is not too much of interest right here in this part of the island. There are a lot of volcanoes on the island that you can see the outlines of, but the pollution is pretty bad so everything looks kind of hazy. There is a big Buddhist temple here called Borobudur which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the world’s largest Buddhist monument. It is a long drive though, and we decided not to risk not getting back to the ship on time due to the very heavy traffic and especially since it is Sunday. We will see lots more Buddhist sites in the next couple of weeks.
On our way back to the ship, we saw some goats out and about, and also lots of these bamboo fishing huts called bagangs. They represent the world’s most unique fishing practice and there are thousands of them around Indonesia. The fisherman stay in the huts and fish from dusk all through the night, using lights to attract the fish. The fish they catch are small, specialty fish which command quite high prices as an export.
We returned to the ship in the afternoon and met up with one of our enrichment lecturers from the last world cruise, John Freedman and his wife Tina. He is here until Abu Dhabi and Norm heard his first lecture yesterday. Nice to connect and we plan to have dinner together one of these nights.
We now have two days at sea before we arrive in Borneo.