Sunday, 11 July 2010

Cibodas: Kebun Raya and Gede Pangrango National Park

This weekend was a bank holiday here and I decided that I was going to visit a place called Cibodas. I previously had ambitions of climbing Gunung Gede a mountain there but after trekking in Gunung Halimun I realised that maybe it isn't such a good idea until I have some experience.

Being a public holiday lots of Javanese and Sundanese tourists from the surrounding areas flock to local attractions. This meant that I had arrived in Cibodas - after a 6 hour mission from Jakarta, through traffic - into a would be bustling resort town for the day. After visiting Gunung Halimun I was looking forward to a couple of relaxing walks and then a return to the city... This was not to be! I decided as I had arrived in Cibodas about 2-3 hours later than I anticipated to visit the botanical gardens there. They were very pretty and had two attractive waterfalls as well as a 3-4km walk which was quite nice. What wasn't so ideal was the volume of locals clambering over rocks at each of them and the incessant rumbling of a party tent, accompanied by the litter that the locals happily leave behind without a care in the world and of course the routine photo opportunites that arise for them to have their photo taken with a genuine bule (honkey). I make it sound all bad but actually it was very pleasant it just seems that Indonesians in general miss the point of a botanical garden... to chill out and pass time in the surroundings of a beautiful garden, not sing English songs badly in a tent through speakers with intermittant explosions of "Hello mister take photo?"... I really don't want to sound too negative because Indonesians - at least in my experiences so far - are wonderfully friendly people. After snapping my photos of the waterfalls and making a quick escape into a longer more secluded route back to the exit I was finally able to chill out and escape the photo opportunites... They seem to love bule people because the only time they really see honkeys is on TV. I mean what rational person back home would want their photo taken with a complete stranger?! Unless there was some comedy value??!?!?!... May be I just answered my own question!...

After the gardens I went back to the homestay and had an early night. I got up early and decided that I was going to head to the national park before the hordes of Indonesian tourists and "hello misters" surfaced. It proved moderately successful and the town was noticeably quieter than the day before. I headed to the park with the grandson of Freddy who owned the homestay where I had spent the night. I was also a little dissapointed with the national park because of a few problems that arose. Due to the traffic problems that slowed my journey to Cibodas I decided that I would try and make haste in my return to Jakarta and head directly to Bogor where I catch a commuter train to Jakarta, which I did and ended up saving me about 2 hours of travel time.  After putting a curb on my ambitions to attempt the summit of Mt. Gede, I was satisfied with making an attempt at the hotspring which is around half way up the mountain. As with everything in Java there is an endless stream of bullshit bureacracy whenever you want to visit a remotely popular attraction. Without paying paying an extra 500,000 Rp (35 quid), which in Indonesia is a lot of cash on top of the £2 or so permit to the waterfall I couldn't get permission to walk to the hotspring. There are plenty of them in Indonesia and I guess I should be satisfied that I have visited it. The waterfalls in the national park were all beautiful but there was nothing remotely adventurous about the ascent to get to them. The trail was marked with a stone path and wooden bridges which left little to the imagination and eased the access to an abundance of tourists which again I guess maximises profit margins. According to the Rough Guide to Indonesia there is a prevalent primate population in the national park... unfortunately I didn't get to see one of the three different species as the walk was more like a nature trail than a hike. There was a really nice lake en route to the waterfall and is definitely worth a mention. So without spotting any monkeys and making it through any real jungle - which I would have if I attempted the hot springs or the summit - I made do with a local who persistently made Monkey noises and introduced himself as monyet (monkey). I got to see some cool stuff and I may well head there again to ascent the summits of Mounts Gede and Pangrango once I have a little more experience. As I think they may prove the park worthy of its name... Plus I'd get spectacular views of the Puncak Pass, Gede crater and hotsprings on top of Suryakencana meadow... my advice to anybody visiting the park is plan ahead and allow enough time to take in all of the attractions there and exit via the Gunung Putri gate as was suggested to me. I visited Cibodas despite the invite to visit a traditional animist tribe called the Badui people...

Peace xxx

Monday, 5 July 2010

Teaching as a 'kepiting rebus'...

Kepiting rebus is Indonesian for boiled crab. While I had a great time in Tanjung Lesung I have been suffering a bit since. My shoulders fell victim to my own stupidity and quite an intense case of sunburn. It's my own fault though and I should have used sunblock and aftersun. What I want to highlight here is Indonesians' fascination with sunburn. Fortunately for them they are lucky to have a naturally brown pigment and can endure quite intense sun... Being a bule and having the pigment of a full fat milk bottle, I'm not so fortunate! I have had lots of fun comments so far this week that have usually resulted in me being labeled a boiled crab or a cooked prawn!... I was also asked "Mr. Lee why is your skin that colour?..." I didn't really know what to say so I just told them I was ill.

The highlight of my week so far was when teaching a new class of teenagers 3 or so. I had assigned them all a person to research on the internet and ask them to write a report that they would later produce in class. One student, Iqbal, was assigned Rupert Brooke a famous WW1 poet from Rugby. Iqbal's 'report' wasn't so much a report as a comparison between himself and this 'great poet'... he went on to use a plethora of superlatives and reported in some depth on the character similarities between himself and Rupert Brooke. I was quite intrigued as to why he felt they were so similar and proceeded to ask him why he felt this way and he reiterated further on how artistic and expressive he believes his character to be, in a way that he feels Rupert Brooke must have been... He looked shell shocked when I asked him if he knew that Rupert Brooke was bisexual!... He wasn't impressed but unfortunately for himself, and had he done the research properly he would have known that and saved himself from much embarrassment!

I have been feeling lothargic this week and have been in some discomfort due to the sunburn and also demotivated due to the amount of hours that I have been having to work. The school is running extra classes at the moment due to the summer holidays. I need a rest. A real rest. I'm starting to take my frustration out on the students by my not teaching to what I feel are the fullest of my abilities. However with the relentless schedule and the fact that we are a few teachers down it's going to be at least another week before things start to ease up again. Luckily next weekend is a bank holiday so I won't be working on the Saturday. I have wanted to visit Gede-Panggrango national park for sometime, and am considering visiting then, but it will depend on available transport and facilities.

I have documented previously my disconcertion with the school and their curriculum so I can't really be arsed to criticise them any further. I just wish that my first big holiday would arrive sooner. I am going to the jungle for a week to a place called Ujung Kulon in September and it is supposed to be in one of the best places to see wildlife in the whole of Indonesia. Hopefully I will be able to canoe down the Cigenter river and maybe see some rhinos and crocodiles. There are plenty of monkeys in Ujung Kulon, so there should be plenty of entertainment!

I'm also at a crossroads with my plans for next year. I'm not sure whether to move to Taiwan next or stay in Indonesia - in a different city - for another year. There is also the option of moving to Europe for the summer and then coming back to Asia. I plan to see a relatively large amount of Indonesia during the upcoming year but there is still so much left that I want to visit that in order to do so I would have to stay here for another year..

This is kind of a merged post because I forgot to post this last week! I've been somewhat lazy when it comes to blogging of late. I just wanted to add another highlight of last week... I have a class of teenagers three times a week who are of a reasonable standard and like to talk. I like to make fun of one of the slower members of the class and I probably went a little far. I had five minutes spare at the end of the lesson so I showed them a clip of Beavis and Butthead on youtube... I did this because this particular students' hair is almost a carbon copy of their style. Sufficed to say he mustn't have been impressed because he came into school this afternoon (Monday), with a shaved head! I feel quite bad now... Indonesians don't really understand the concept of banter on a personal level. Quite a lot of nasty expressions in English don't even seem to have a translation, which is probably quite a nice thing I suppose.

I realised I hadn't posted so I thought I'd include that little nugget!...