18 Nov - 20 Nov 2013 Semarang

Southeast Asia
Republic of Indonesia (CPI = 32/100 and BPI = 7.1/10.0)
Central Java aka Jawa Tengah
Jl. Imam Bonjol 177 B
Clean and new standard a/c single room with modern shared bathroom (bak mandi and 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: INR 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: Overnighting in bustling Semarang, catching up on admin work and visiting the much-vaunted Semawis Night Market aka Pasar Malam Semawis with low-key karaoke, fortune telling and MSG-laden junk food: (i) cremated chicken aka ayam sate with its nasty, acrid smell, for the good Indonesian Muslims, (ii) squidgy and impalpable pork dishes with a greasy texture, for the good Indonesian Chinese, and (iii) the finest selection of darn cheap fructose sugar (more or less hidden in cakes, cookies, biscuits, candy bars and soft drinks as well as in Java’s sweet local specialties: (a) gudeg [a coconut-infused sweet stew of young jackfruit, chicken and hardboiled eggs], (b) kelepon [green rice-flour balls with palm sugar filling] and (c) serabi [coconut milk pancakes topped with chocolate, banana or jackfruit]), certainly the most harmful but perfectly legal drug of our time, for all of the oh-so-sweet Indonesians who love their regular sugar fix and ignore the fact that the tooth-rotting sugar feeds cancer cells, triggers weight gain and leads to low-level inflammations which are at the core of most chronic diseases; metabolically speaking, fructose is alcohol “without the buzz” – cheers!

Matt: Looking back on our first visit to Indonesia, only a couple of years ago, noticing visible changes that have taken place (besides the beer price which has almost doubled), such as (i) less greengrocers and more bakeries in the cities, (ii) less public minibuses and more private scooters in the countryside, (iii) less money changers and more ATMs everywhere, and wondering whether or not Indonesia is a developing nation...

It's not the road we used to know
They tore some buildings down
The traffic's like a pack of dogs
There's fewer trees, windows, fleas
There's concrete on the lawn
There's people here but you are gone…” 

Matt: Saying selamat tinggal to crowded, lively and friendly Central Java aka Jawa Tengah where I survived (i) huge volcanoes which did not erupt, (ii) wild scooters which don’t stop for pedestrians and (iii) those tiny, easily swallowable metal staples which keep the banana leaves and the paper wrappings of nasi bungkus campur together and which hopefully will not stay for ever inside my intestines. 

Matt: Crossing the equator back into the northern hemisphere, thus flying uneventfully with low-cost carrier Air Asia (“Now Everyone Can Fly”) in a worn but undefeatable Airbus A 320-200 from Semarang’s small Achmad Yani International Airport (airport tax for international departures: IDR 100,000.- or US$ 10.85 per person) over the Strait of Malacca to Kuala Lumpur’s KLIA-LCCT for a rather stiff US$ 62.- per person, one way, all inclusive, changing my watch in mid-air from Indonesia Western Time (GMT + 7 hours) to Malaysia Standard Time (GMT + 8 hours), deciding to blow the whistle on Air Asia’s management and to tell the flight captain that his bosses had tried to put me on the company’s payroll for Stasi-like secret spying on Air Asia’s staff (quote from Air Asia’s email: “…to be eligible for RM 50 you must complete all questions and provide the exact name of a cabin crew, as displayed on name tag, for verification purposes … you must not let any Air Asia staff or guests know that you are our Eye in the Sky…”), being issued with another 90-day-visit pass for a “social visit” to Malaysia on arrival, free of charge, taking the yellow Aerobus shuttle coach (c. 70 km, 1 ½ hours, MYR 8.- per person) straight to KL Sentral, hereafter the icy monorail train (MYR 2.50 per person, from KL Sentral to Medan Tuanku) to our pre-booked Tune Hotel in downtown and, best of it all, reuniting with my partner Konni, the flying grandmother-turned-snowbird who had just arrived from our new headquarters in South Ontario.

Click below for more blog posts about fantastic Asian night markets

Click below for a summary of this year's travels

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From the 2013 Moral Travel Compass for Our Grand Children's Journey of Life: 
It’s bad to go for faster and bigger;
It’s good to notice more subtle distinctions.
Keep your bearings!