26 Oct - 30 Oct 2013 Semarang

Republic of Indonesia (CPI = 32/100 and BPI = 7.1/10.0)
Central Java aka Jawa Tengah
Jalan Imam Bonjol 177 B
Clean and new standard a/c single room with modern shared bathroom (bak mandi and Southeast Asian squat toilet) and good wifi for IDR 110,000.- or US$ 9.90 per night.
Laundry service: IDR 5,000.- per kg, washed and dried (minimum charge per load: IDR 15,000.- or US$ 1.35).
Staff: raw beginners but highly motivated and helpful; reasonable English.
Beer: 620-ml bottles of chilled Anker Beer (4.9 % alc./vol.) for IDR 24,500.- or US$ 2.20 per large bottle from the brand-new Indomaret convenience store (24/7 service) on the hostel’s ground floor - world of bliss.

Click below for an interactive road map of the Imam Bonjol Hostel in Semarang and for directions:
S 06° 58.80' E 110° 24.65'

Matt: Suffering an unexpected reverse culture shock and speeding through its four distinct phases (Honeymoon, Negotiation, Adjustment and Mastery) when, coming in from backward Kalimantan, entering the modern and bustling Javanese port city of Semarang with her (i) pothole-free but clogged avenues and manicured green spaces, (ii) glitzy shopping malls and stylish boutiques stocked with well-known international brands, and (iii) with the usual chains of polished 24/7 convenience stores and well-maintained institutions of invocation, some of them intermixing the spook of choice, where the registered members of Indonesia’s six officially accredited pancasila religions (Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism - that's all) can conjure their spirits, angels, demons, gods and goddesses.

Matt: Time-travelling back 250 years into Java’s colonial past, strolling through Semarang’s richly atmospheric old Dutch port quarter with many buildings in an advanced state of decay and bribing the security guard at the 1753 CE Protestant Gereja Blenduk aka Gereja Jemaat Imanuel Semarang with IDR 2,000.- or US$ 0.15 in order to get in and to admire its baroque-style organ.

Matt: Time-travelling back 600 years into the legacy of the Hui-Chinese eunuch and mariner Cheng Ho, who commanded expeditionary sea voyages to Southeast Asia, the Middle East and East Africa from 1405 to 1433, and burning eight evil-smelling incense sticks at the huge and colourful Sam Po Kong Temple +62247605277 (admission: IDR 10,000.- per foreigner) for all cruising yotties: "Fair winds and following seas!"

Matt: Time-travelling ahead into the monochromatic future of a Muslim world, visiting the rather new, 10-hectare Central Java Grand Mosque aka Masjid Agung Jawa Tengah, the greatest mosque in Java and a combination of European, Middle East and Asian architecture, contemplating about the weak correlation between high-flying Eastern Islamism and a more down-to-earth Western engineering/maintenance culture (revolving restaurant: halted; trick fountains: emptied; hydraulically operated sun umbrellas: closed) and keeping a sharp lookout from the mosque's 99-m high control-tower shaped minaret for flying carpets made of green silk with a golden weft.

Well, you don't know what
We can find
Why don't you come with me little girl
On a magic carpet ride…"

Matt: Touring the modern, Tionghoa-owned Nyonya Meneer jamu factory +62243547532 which produces traditional Indonesian herbal medicine and health-care products for women and for men, discussing the exciting business opportunity of selling specially formulated health-care products to lgb people and to transgenders, reading in the company's proud and bilingual 40-page product list about “herbs to promote fertility” aka jamu bibit and “herbal contraceptives” aka jamu kering istimewa and concluding that (i) if one believes in science, chemicals will help, (ii) if one believes in nature, herbs will help and (iii) if one believes in magic, placebos will help too (…the best bet is to always firmly believe in your own belief system).

Matt: Sipping my most expensive cup of breakfast coffee during this trip through Indonesia, paying IDR 100,000.- or US$ 9.30 for one cup of this very special coffee, in a country where a cup of regular black coffee aka kopi pahit averages only IDR 3,000.- or US$ 0.30, and realising, unfortunately far too late, that I have contributed with my luxurious cup of civet-shit coffee aka kopi luwak to the miserable life of these poor Asian palm civets (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus) who were taken from the wild, have to live like battery chickens and are brutally force fed the coffee beans - damn, I should be wearing sackcloth and ashes for supporting this case of animal cruelty!
Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson): Kopi Luwak is the world's most expensive coffee, though, for some, it falls under the category of too good to be true. In the Sumatran village where the beans are grown lives a breed of wild African tree-cat. These cats eat the beans, digest them, then defecate. The villagers then collect and process the stools. It is the combination of beans and gastric juices of the tree-cat that give Kopi Luwak its unique flavor and aroma... - You're shitting me?” Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman): “Cats beat me to it.”
(Justin Zackham: The Bucket List)

Matt: Flagging down, right in-front of the hostel, one of the many battered no-name regional buses to Salatiga (c. 50 km, 2 ½ hours, IDR 10,000.- per person), taking a comfortable P.O. Safari express coach +62298314743 (c. 60 km, 1 hour, IDR 13,000.- per person) from Salatiga through densely populated Central Java, along rice paddies and coffee plantations, to Solo’s modern Tirtonadi bus terminal, 3 km north of the city centre, and thereafter a becak (IDR 20,000.- or US$ 1.75 for the exciting ride through a horrific traffic chaos) straight to my pre-booked homestay in the shadow of Surakarta’s kraton, once a majestic palace and the hub of an empire, but in today’s Indonesia in very poor condition and clearly surpassed by the better guarded, ultramodern BNI, BRI and BCA palaces with their well-oiled ATMs.

Recommended books - click below for your Amazon order from the United States:

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From the 2013 Moral Travel Compass for Our Grand Children's Journey of Life:
It’s bad to follow any ideology;
Its good to believe your gut feelings.
Keep your bearings!

21 Oct - 26 Oct 2013 Pangkalan Bun

Republic of Indonesia (CPI = 32/100 and BPI = 7.1/10.0) 
Central Kalimantan aka Kalimantan Tengah (KalTeng)
Jalan P. Antasari 100
Hotel Bahagia +6253221226 bahagiahotel@yahoo.com
Clean a/c standard double room with shared bathroom (bak mandi and Asian squat toilet), with wifi and a nominal breakfast, for IDR 120,000.- or US$ 10.80 per night. Friendly and competent staff; reasonable English.
Beer-free Muslim stronghold where strictly enforced local law prohibits the sale of beer.

Click below for an interactive road map of the Hotel Bahagia in Pangkalan Bun, which we would recommend, and for directions:
S 02° 40.66' E 111° 37.63'


Matt: Exploring the beer-free (yin) and pork-free (yang), predominantly Malay Indonesian riverside micropolis of Pangkalan Bun, a Muslim stronghold along the sluggish Sungai Arut, and coming across (i) its brand-new mosques and dilapidated residential houses, (ii) its bazaars where perfumeries outnumber plumbing supply stores and (iii) its hospitable inhabitants who get a kick out of overcharging wealthy foreigners (harga turis vs. harga biasa), seemingly everyone's holy duty, but always done with a friendly smile.

Matt: Visiting the sultan’s drab Yellow Palace aka Istana Kuning, a wooden hill-top fortress above town with great views over a sea of corrugated iron roofs, tasting traditional yellow rice aka nasi kuning (IDR 10,000.- or US$ 0.90 per plate), cooked with coconut milk and turmeric and served with shrimp crackers aka kerupuk udang and slices of cucumber, and daydreaming vividly about washing down the good food with a glass of ice-cold yellow (blond to deep-straw golden) beer, agh.

"Purple haze all in my eyes,
Don't know if it’s day or night
You got me blowin, blowin my mind
Is it tomorrow, or just the end of time?"

Matt: Hanging out at the riverside boardwalks of the water village, socialising with the friendly locals and watching their everyday life along, on and with the river (…and noticing quite a few similarities between the daily routine in a water village and aboard a cruising sailing ship): brushing one's teeth in the river/sea, bathing the children in the river/sea, fetching water from the river/sea, doing the laundry in the river/sea, emptying one's bowels into the river/sea, cooling off in the river/sea, catching fish from the river/sea, disposing of trash into the river/sea - anything and everything.

"You can never shit into the same river twice."

Matt: Taking a shared minibus aka opelet from the terminal near the market for a daytrip to Kumai (c. 25 km, ¾ hour, IDR 25,000.- per person), Pangkalan Bun’s harbour for luxury cruise ships, passenger ferries to Java's north coast, regional cargo vessels, wooden Buginese and Makassarese schooners and for the villagers’ longboats, exploring the town’s busy riverfront, her sexy markets and intoxicating mosques, and coming face to face with the whole schmear of high-end orangutan shows in the commercialised Tanjung Puting National Park: a/c tour coaches with package tourists behind the tinted vehicle windows under police escort with their blue lights switched on, overweight school children begging for dollars, pounds and even euros (!), and an officially endorsed two-tier pricing system as racist as you can get.

Matt: Attending Herlina & Juryansyah’s traditional Malay Indonesian wedding reception aka resepsi pernikahan (“the more the merrier”), wishing them the best of luck and enjoying the racy music, the elaborate food and the entertaining company.

“Men marry women with the hope they will never change.
Women marry men with the hope they will change.
Invariably they are both disappointed.”

Matt: Finding an ojek for the short ride to the airport (c. 8 km, ¼ hour, IDR 25,000.-), flying uneventfully with Trigana Air (“We Serve You Here, There and Everywhere” - outside Europe, because the optimistic airline has been on the List of Airlines Banned in the EU since 2007) in a vintage Boeing 737-400 from Pangkalan Bun’s Iskandar Airport over the Java Sea to Semarang’s Achmad Yani International Airport for IDR 555,000.- or exactly US$ 50.00 per person (plus the idiotic IDR 11,000.- or US$ 1.00 “domestic passenger service charge” [airport departure tax], charged separately to the ticket at Pangkalan Bun’s overstaffed country airport), one way and all inclusive, and taking a city bus (IDR 3.500.- per person) from the bus stop near the airport to my next hostel, located right in the centre of Semarang, the “Paris of Java”.

Click below for more blog posts about other beer-free Muslim strongholds
2013 Map Konni & Matt

Recommended books - click below for your Amazon order from Germany:

For Amazon deals from the United States, please click here
For Amazon deals from Canada, please click here
For Amazon deals from the United Kingdom, please click here

From the 2013 Moral Travel Compass for Our Grand Children's Journey of Life:
It’s bad to be right in the end;
It’s good to live your dreams.
Keep your bearings!