404 Inursecting back: Lombok to Penang isles (via Java) xactly 24 yrs future past
[.. since now we in Penang (flying from Bali) figured we'd post our transcribed journel from when we travelled by land + sea from Lombok + Bali to Penang .. along w/ sum photos (tho most from this trip didn't come out) ..]
Gilli [Trawangan]—Dec 9, 1990
Hari? Hari Krishna? Tanggal? Tahun? Sitting on Gilli [Trawangan]—an island off of Lombok ... couldn't even make it past the 1st line, fell asleep. Twisted [methloquin] induced dreams. Spaced-out events yesterday—bemo hell, in + out of many, sweating, riding in crazy teeny bemos whizzing past horse-drawn carriages, clueless as to our whereabouts. Just clinging to this spinning sphere, trying to keep from falling off.
Let me backfill in space—I'm in Lombok [Senggigi] at this point travelling w/ Justine + Nick. We are on a mission to culturally enlighten ourselves after redosing on the comforts of a traveller's paradise ... i.e. nice beaches + food besides fried rice. Our 1st stop was some huge market (not intentionally) ... bombardment of the senses. The most incredible smells emanated from dark smoky stalls. Huge jackfruit bigger than watermelons, salted fish, rooms full of spices + weird foods. Our 1st quest was for fruit. Gorged on things we didn't even know the names of. Then we hit little rickety stalls full of blankets + strange charms, statues + trinkets.
Had breakfast at this little stall, just asked for anything without meat + got this incredible concoction of spiced cabbage, onions + peanuts over rice. They had these drinks that looked like anti-freeze, quite florescent + undoubtedly radioactive—a big hit w/ the locals. Got a horse-drawn cart to take us to the water temples. Crazy trip. The poor horse w/ all sorts of harnesses, majestically decked out like they decorate the bemos. He was not happy + kicking the cart. We pulled into bustling traffic that the driver seemed oblivious to ... bemos flew by honking, mopeds swerving in + out w/ proper school girls riding them. Bicycles gliding by + other horses pulling families w/ their shopping goods.
He dropped us at the weaving factory where we could just walk in + witness 1st hand the making of the sarongs—rom the drying of the threads to the organized patterns to the unstable looms rigged together w/ pieces of rope + wire that shook violently w/ each thrust of the spool across the loom. We handed out bits of coconut + became popular.
Then we walked to the water palace—we could see it from the road + "looked like jack shit" + they wanted money to see it. Down the street we could see the flying pagoda of a Hindu temple + opted for it instead. We walked around this high enclosure trying to gain entrance w/ no lock. Finally this red-teethed woman motioned for us to follow ... she unlocked a door + gave us these yellow scarves to put around our waists (does this have any relevance to oak trees?) I guess you cant enter without them—they protect you from spirits or some such thing. Towering layered structures w/ roofs stretching up, great carvings of Hindu mythology.
Then came across this other market ... we all got split up. I wandered thru endless mazes of sarongs + knives, found this hole in the wall stand full of antique sarongs, old coins + dusty funky gadgets which were unfortunately overpriced. I finally bought a sarong .. a thin one for sleeping. It was hard as i was overwhelmed w/ choices. I found 1 cheap cuz it had a mistake—the print had smeared ... figured it was for me.
Headed back + Justine + i went snorkeling at the point—fabulous. Saw a baby shark. Then went to a traveller's restaurant. They had this funky gamelan like orchestra playing—bamboo xylophones (angklung), little cymbals + a lot of drums. They played w/ dark sunglasses + cigarettes hanging from their mouths. Bocek is what it was called, unfortunately we were clueless. We stumbled in + sat on cushions on the floor. This very elegant + beautiful young woman was dancing + she handed Nick a fan. He was sposed to get up + dance w/ here ... he did. Then she gave me the fan. I was confused + didn't know the dance, so figured i would just imitate her like Nick was. By now more people had gathered. I must've looked pretty stupid. She was singing w/ this nasal squealy voice, very loud + obnoxious + between verses she would squeal out a "hello meestair" + give me an impatient look like i was sposed to do something. Someone said she wanted money. I pulled out a 100 rupees but she seemed highly displeased. Evidently the object of the dance (which we found out later) was that she would go off + toss the fan to some guy + return to the dance floor. He was to come back, wait for a break in the song + hand the fan back. Then he danced w/ her until he was satisfied then paid her. There were many locals lurking in dark corners outside which she would go out + recruit. They showed us how it was done. Each 1—little kids, old men—knew the dance ... elegant w/ flowing arms. A new dancer came on + we decided to retreat to a dark corner + be inconspicuous. Justine was acting drunk tho she'd had nothing to drink.
Continuing the saga... we got back home + laid in bed all night talking. Nick left early the next morning to Bali. We got up + decided to head to the Gillis ... got a bemo that stopped for pictures of the rice paddies + buffalos in the monkey forest where these overly friendly gibbons hung out on the side of the road waiting for people to stop + feed them.
[none of the rolls of photos from Lombok turned out].
Waited at the boat dock for 20 people to accumulate then headed out to the last Gili —[Twarangan] ... lovely island, one of those places where backpackers go to lay on beaches + drink beer. Definitely devoid of culture, but alright for a change. Laid in the sun then took a mandi. Hung out w/ this group of Swedes over dinner at some cafe... Justine was asking me to write down names of bands to buy in Bali (where they sell lots of bootlegs) ... i was writing down names—Violent Femmes, Velvet Underground, Camper Van Beethoven, etc. Then a Velvet Underground song comes on, as if to illustrate my point. And then the song to follow was Violent Femmes! Almost like somebody was looking over our shoulder. A few tunes later was an obscure Camper Van song ... too much to be coincidence. Some Swedish guy sees me singing along + comes up, "doo you know dis band?" Hell yah, they are my hometown band. It was his mixtape + he was glad to find someone who'd also heard of these bands. He played in a band in Gottenberg. He was also a sailmaker. We sat + chatted all evening [...]
Mangsit Beach, Lombok, Dec 11
Lounged + dozed then snorkeled on the east end .. excellent drop off. Saw a garden of garden eels w/ their heads sticking out of the sand + a huge trigger like fish hat was about 4-5 feet long w/ a huge big block on his head. Walked around the island watching storms come in, rainbows + the sunset cut across the island, sleepy dusty huts, people who raised goats + gathered coconuts. Islamic praying. Played backgammon all night.
Woke up this morning + got a boat back to Lombok. Took a horse drawn cart to this town where we got a bemo back to Senggigi. Got a flat. At Senggi we pushed on here to Mangsit. Great gardens w/ huts + killer raised platforms w/ bamboo floors covered w/ cushions + mattresses, a wall of books, games + a stereo—very cozy. They had no rooms but this woman let us sleep on the cozy platforms til tomorrow. This place is perfect cuz it's been raining all afternoon. The food is great. Vegetarian + lots of brown rice + tempeh. Great place for a mental holiday ... lounge around in sarongs, reading, playing games, drinking tea + eating good food. Went into town to arrange for a "tour" for tomorrow.
[at this point J wrote a long 4-page letter in my journal]
Let's see ... 2 nights ago played asshole w/ these 2 girls from D.C. who knew D.S. [friend of mine]. 1 of them said she wanted to marry him. Both alcoholics just like him. We had to sleep on the porch as there were no rooms. Everyone was getting plastered til 3 a.m. making it hard to sleep.
Next morning we went on a tour of Lombok ... Just Justine, Elaine, me + the bemo driver. Charter trip. 1st stop was Narmada (after stopping at the water palace). Narmada is a smaller replica of Mt. Rinajni. Some king in 1747 built it when he became too old to make the pilgrimage to Mt. Rinjani. He would now only have to climb the temples. There were copies of the lakes amidst lush gardens + even a giant swimming pool for the public.
We were treated to a "pereshan"—a sort of dance-fight. This gamelan of drums + suling + funky plates started playing. 2 boys came out w/ just a sarong + head dress. They had sticks w/ string would around the ends + carried large rectangular shields made [of leather. A referee started dancing this really cool dance ...CONTINUED BELOW ...]
[.. Each time the ref calling them apart and together with ..] his entrancing dancing.
Next stop—Lingsar—a temple where Hindus + Muslims + Sassak (Wektu Telu) all pray together. Wektu Telu is unique to the Sassaks of Lombok + combines Hindu, Muslim + animist beliefs. There was a temple w/ stones wrapped in yellow + white scarves (symbolizing holy man) + other temple commemorating Lord Vishnu w/ a crystal pool full of large holy eels. You're supposed to be able to drop an egg + watch the eels come out but our guide didn't seem too keen on finding an egg.
Then stopped for a rad lunch in Praya then onto Rembitan—a traditional Sassak Village. We were immediately accosted by kids trying to sell us tin ore + wanting to show us their village. A cluster of bamboo huts on the side of a hill. Some lady tried to sell me a mickey mouse handkerchief w/ some old coins she had sewn into the corners. A clash of cultures... she was selling it for 40,000 rp. Obviously this Mickey + Pluto handkerchief was the most exotic possession in the village.
The driving along the way was terrific ... many people working the rice fields under stormy clouds. The rain hit us when we got back to our cozy abode. This place is so decadent. Excellent food. Lounging around on cushions reading or playing backgammon. Did some snorkeling as well. Everything w/ Justine is funner. She's got a great sense of humor. Maybe it's that she's different ... on many views we the opposite. I try not to think about it too much, all i know is she's good company.
Today we got up late ...went to Ampenan + got these mixtures of beans, veggies, coconut, tofu, curry sauce + all sorts of other things wrapped in banana leaves that we ate w/ our hands on the sidewalk. We went to the market + got mangoes + about 50 rambutans which we consumed throughout the day. Delicious, possibly replacement therapy for my passionfruit withdrawl. Went snorkeling—saw a big eel, cowfish + stingray w/ florescent blue spots. Other people saw giant sea turtles, we searched futilely but couldn't find them.
Ubud, Bali Dec 14
5:45 wake up call. Packed. Pancakes + tea. Bemo picked us up + then the Swedish girls on the way down to the port... 1 hour. Hopped the ferry. Played cribbage + watched Muslim men stare at the braless Swedes ... 3 hour trip over to Bali. The number of tourists is increasing exponentially as we near Bali. Arrive. Cruise ships, tourist shops. Wolfed down rice then got a bemo to Ubud. The Panajachel of Bali. Miles of shops + losmens. The choice was overwhelming. Sunburnt tourists from Kuta on day trips in their shiny rental jeeps. If this place is unspoiled, i'd hate to see Kuta. Tourists everywhere w/ all the conveniences of home. Good shops tho, plenty of art + lots of opportunity to see music + dance.
Went shopping, didn't buy anything. In the evening saw the Barong dance which was fabulous—everything, the music, the dance + the costumes were entrancing ... [photos didnt really come out] all set in a carved stone temple under the Balinese night. They had this huge dragon-like thing manipulated by 2 people to look amazingly animated. A "monkey" ran around, the clown, teasing the dragon. The story is on the accompanying page. Towards the end these 4 fighters came out to attack the dragon. The dragon went in + they took the daggers into themselves. Their muscles were straining + tense as the long blade pressed into their bosom w/ great force tho surprisingly not breaking the skin.
Cruised the drag looking into every single shop. Hindu offerings on the floors. Remove shoes. Got a good deal on a killer Flores vest. The guy took the money + brushed the other articles in the store for good luck for the rest of the day (1st sale). Early morning is a good time to get a good deal for this reason. Justine + i walked up in the hills in the rice paddies ... beautiful ... ducks walked in line between the fields.
Crossed the infamous suspension bridge, so many shops everywhere. Had a pizza + some guacamole overlooking the rice paddies. Clash of cultures. Then went to the Neka museum They had artists from Ubud, old + new. Some of the mixture of traditional old Balinese mixed w/ modern impressionism, were really intense. There were a few Antonio Blanco pieces—like a Balinese Egon Schiele. The room full Abdul Aziz's pieces was intense as they all seemed to be coming out of the paintings. Felt like being in a room full of people.
Hitched a ride back into Ubud in this nice car w/ smartly dressed high school kids ... 4 giggle girls w/ cameras + a guy driving. They stopped to take pictures of us w/ them. Another car drove by—their friends in a Honda Civic—the rich kids of Bali. Ended up the driver was in a Balinese rock band. He played us his tape + it was pretty good (for generic pop). More shopping ... i bought a demonic mask w/ bulging eyes, a fish mobile, a sarong, etc. then had dinner in this amazing vegetarian place. Some man on a motorcycle hit an old man on a bicycle on the street at dusk. These guys took the old man away on their motorcycles while the rest (civilians) cornered the culprit. A court trial on the spot. No insurance here. They just come up w/ some sum of how much the accident was worth (from what i could guess). Went to the tape store ... everything at $1 a tape. Excellent gamelan music at 1/2 that price. The guy lets you play anything in the store. Watched these men practice gamelan for a while. I can still hear them from here on the verandah, over the crickets + geck-ko, geck-kos.
More xmas shopping, went off by myself. Got pictures developed. Got some old man to patch up my shorts + jeans. Bought at least a dozen tapes including cool Sundanese pop tapes, tape holders, shorts, etc. Met Justine for lunch at the vegy place, started to go to Monkey Forest but it began pouring—beauty! Dark clouds over temples + lush trees. Ubud is a bombardment of the senses .. amazing smells fill the air, smells i can't describe, just a Bali smell—jackfruit, Hindu incense, jasmine rice, the decaying flower offerings everywhere, satay smell, the smell of rain. The people smell nice the ikat smell nice, soon to be nostalgic yearning i imagine. And visually, colors abound, intricate temples, beautiful people dressed in beautiful patterned clothing, walls of fruit, stands of textured ikat ... + aurally ... sounds abound, seems to be gamelan practiced eveywhere, bemos flying by blaring Javanese pop, musical voices. They've perfected the art of living, truly civilized. I've had some of the most amazing meals, something as simple as tofu in a bag w/ satay sauce, to spicy shrimp + spinach, jackfruit curry, succulent fruit drinks, rambutan snacks throughout the day.
Saw a Kecak/Trance/Fire dance performance. Got a bemo to this town Bona w/ an Australian anthropologist girl from Alice Springs (studying Aborigines) + an American oil executive living in Jakarta, this guy from Denpasar—Balinese yuppie tourist ... it was a rather touristic event. They came on + weren't too enthused (dont blame them if they do it a few times a week). It was very different from our Kecak performance [i performed in a Kecak ensemble in Santa Cruz]. A lot looser + sloppier, more comic + improvised. Some of the guys were just screwing around cuz they knew the tourists wouldn't be able to tell whether it was good or bad. Nevertheless it was interesting (but was it real?).
Next 2 girls were carried out—the trance dance. Supposedly they were possessed w/ demon spirits of the village, they danced w/ their eyes closed. Occasionally they would topple over like rag dolls + would have to be picked back up on their feet.
After that these dudes came out + lit a bunch of coconut husks on fire to make coals. This guy comes out w/ a horse costume draped over himself + began dancing on the coals, kicking them around quite dramatically. Just like the entranced girls, he had to be brought out of his trance by the Hindu priest who sprinkled water on him. You could see his blistered, callused + charred feet afterwards.
Kuta, Bali Dec 17
Woke up + went to the monkey forest .. we were successful in finding the swimming hole, but weren't wearing the proper sarong/temple scarf to go into the temple of the dead (only saw it from the outside). Around the temple were many monkeys up in the trees lounging + sleeping. I produced a bag of crackers + they slowly migrated up to where we were sitting. The little ones would casually jump on our laps + climb on our shoulders. They seemed to like when i looked for lice + submitted quite readily. A semi-dominant male snatched the whole bag from under my eyes + ran away. Then the big dominant male came along + chased him up a tree. Also saw this really cool mandi down in the ravine ... Hindu sculptured walls w/ gargoyle-like water spouts all well weathered + grown over w/ vines in the middle of thick jungle.
Went back + got my jeans + shorts that this funny old man did a great patch job on. Then the bus to Kuta. It got really miserable as we neared Denpasar + thru Kuta. Heavy traffic, at one point it was bumper to bumper for at least 1/2 an hour + i was sandwiched between 2 people in the closed bus in the blazing noon day sun. Bloody hot, i was drenched in sweat, couldn't tell if it was mine or the people next to me. A good intro to Kuta. A big town that seems to be bursting at the seams, making itself in a bustling crowded city. A maze of back alleys + pot-holed roads full of crazy mopeds. The whole way here + in Kuta there seems to be Hindu temples at least every km. .. all w/ intricate carvings + flower + incense offerings.
We got to some back alley losmen then went to the ocean for a swim. A legitimate beach w/ waves even. You can't lie down w/o someone hustling you. But we spent most of the time in the water bodysurfing. Then we did some shopping. Kuta has more variety than Ubud, + cheaper. No bargaining. Everybody wants to sell you something—transport, backrubs, watches, drugs, mushrooms, "merrywana," their sisters ... whatever you want you can get it.
Had lunch at TJ's ... Mexican food, California style. Mushroom enchiladas. Shopped swam, had diner at this seafood place where you pick out what you want before they cook it. It was Justine's last night so we went out on the town. Went first Cock 'N' Bull bar ... this place reminded me Florida during spring break (not that we've ever been)—Frat boys + dumpy girls partying it up. Drank enough 2 get 2 free shirts, watching some Balinese man sing John Denver songs + sing La Bamba in decent spanish. Had to wander back thru dark alleys in the rain to get more money. Splashing in mud puddles, speedy bemos, everyone pushing everything on you. We then went to "Peanuts" ... a legitimate nightclub. Actually there are 4 of them all next to eachother w/ their sound systems all blaring in competition, making a thick collage of layered noise. More beer ... too much. Danced all night in a daze, spaced + sweaty + steamy. A blur of flashing lights, young Balinese boys w/ middle-aged Aussie housewives trying to let loose ... barefoot, hopping around + spinning, black light brightened clean cut Aussie chums fighting w/ bouncers cuz they were too cool to wear shirts. Wandered home thru flooded streets ... we were going to take a horse cart but i think we were too drunk to remember the name of our losmen. The streets were still alive w/ women selling midnight snacks, hippy Bali boys pushing hash, young beautiful prostitutes peddling their goods.
Woke up this a.m. to se Justine off at 7 a.m. ... just a quick good-bye, no big scene. In a way i'm glad she's left as i want to travel along for a while. But at the same time i'm already lonely + depressed, wandering aimlessly around. I don't feel so great today, lethargic + spaced, sort throat, ate some raunchy food off the street downed w/ tap water, while tourists walked by + told me i was an idiot. Spaced + dreamy, took 2 naps ... weird dreams about storms, saving ships, hanging out w/ the Harlem globetrotters + adopted Malaysian sisters from Rangoon. Was very asocial today, tho i did meet this black dude from England travelling around the world by himself. Got a bunch of color reprints + found a place that does black + white. Went to this tape shop full of cassette decks + headphones where you can listen to all the tapes. Got a patchquilt bag. Shit, i feel depressed + down. Justine was a temporary stopgap, a false security. [...] Am i too critical? Am i too choosey or spoiled?
Had an intense conversation w/ this girl Ani. She's a freshman at the Univ of Denpasar, studying economics. Very modern in some ways, but she hasn't forgotten her Hindu heritage. She explained to me all about Balinese Hinduism, showing me her family temple + how to make the little offerings. Pad Dan is the flower that has bombarded my senses. An incredible smell ... an experience just to smell it. They put offerings out everyday (to the "abstract owner") of the house. Every 15 days they put a bigger 1. Besides Brahma, Shiva + Vishnu they believe in a supreme deity not present in Indian Hinduism, as well as moon, sun + earth gods, etc. What impresses me most is the simplicity + casualness ... Hindus are not fanatical, they are mellow + practical + just enjoy the ritualism. Hinduism is culture, it is an art, its epic books are poetry. They are not out to convert anyone or impose guilt or shame. There are taboos, but they are mellow about it, especially if you don't know any better. They have the caste system, but don't have the untouchable class. The Balinese language is actually 3 separate languages (low, middle + high, depending on who you are speaking to). I asked her if you were born into a caste + in a way you are but if you want to change "no problem." I asked where artists fit into the castes. "Artists?" They never had a concept of artists til westerners came along. Everybody does art in their spare time, craftsmen + laborers are considered artists, gamelan musicians + dancers. She was honored that i was interested in learning about Hinduism. She was sick of Australians that came to Kuta to party + go home.
Did more shopping today + finally [bought stuff—mostly at this one shop ... CONT BELOW]
Woke in the middle of the night + couldn't sleep—restless. I could hear the throbbing pulse of jumbled nightclubs hovering over Kuta in the steamy air. I needed exercise + fresh air so i got up (1 a.m.) + trudged thru wet streets to Peanuts (wearing my new studly loud paisley shirt). Actually i went to Crazy Horse first ... they had an instrumental band + singers would just come up from the audience ... At Peanuts just danced by myself, the whole time in a corner of the dance floor. Most of the people were pissed + clumsy, trying to let loose. Aussie fratboys + dumpy girls, so i'm sure no 1 even noticed me. There was the occasional Bali boy who probly managed to get a hold of a Michael Jackson video cuz they were pretty good. They danced w/ themselves too—all of us in our little corner.
At 4 a.m. it closed up. Some prostitute w/ painted pink lips grabbed my arm + tried to follow me home. I put 5000 rp in her hand + told her "good night"... it made her smile at least. I woke up again at 7 a.m. feeling pretty shitty. Decided to go into Denpasar. Bemo hell. Sweatlodge bemo to Tegal. Another to the G.P.O. where i got letters from Kevin, David, Mom + Michael ... but none from S + no credit card. The 3 Swedish girls stumbled in w/ their packs ... why they brought them to the G.P.O. i don't know (specially as the GPO is way out on the outskirts of town next to nothing). They were quite funny, so delicate, always wiping themselves w/ handiwipes, spic + span w/ these massive backpacks ... how they manage i don't know. Troopers. Always giggling, maybe they think i'm cute. In Gilli Terwangan i could sometimes here them in the next mandi over taking showers together + giggling in Swedish. Once i heard a fart come out of 1 + they all burst out laughing. Really strange girls.
Got a bemo back to Tegal + tried to get another to Asti, the art school to see if i could track down Nyoman Sedana [a visiting Kecak/gamelan teacher i had back in UC Santa Cruz]. This bemo took me way out in the middle of nowhere (along w/ a red haired bohemian girl w/ a guitar) + dropped me off, pointing in the general direction. I wandered around asking directions, went back, passed it again, finally when i found it it ended up that it wasn't Asti, but Dokar, another music school .... they were playing western music. These teachers directed me to Asti ... a long walk thru hectic Denpasar suburbia. The land of no tourists. I asked directions from some man on a motorcycle + he told me to hop on. But he veered way off from what the map said. Flying down these shanty back alleys. I would point back + ask him, but i think all he knew how to say was "yes, yes" ... just as i was beginning to worry that maybe he was gonna take my money + leave me the gutter, we pull up to Asti. They guy wanted to wait for me so he could take me back to my hotel. These people are too kind.
I went into the office to ask about Nyoman but they didn't speak much English. But the mention of "Nyoman Sedana" seemed to generate a buzz, them talking in Bahasa amongst themselves, "blah, blah, ..., UC Santa Cruz blah blah ..." Yes! That's the 1. They all gathered + looked at me curiously. I told them i was his student in english. They had sent 1 of their best teachers to Mars to do Kecak + here 1 of the martians was. Maybe he sent them photos of the converted Nyoman, in a tie-dye Harley shirt saying "totally beechin" like we corrupted him to say. Ends up he was still in Santa Cruz for 3 more years. News to me, he was sposed to be back. I wandered around the school ... really intense. Classes of gamelan, top notch. Playing amazingly complicated patterns + rhythms w/ abrupt changes + perfectly tight. I saw + watched at the doorway w/ some construction workers on their lunch break, who seemed to be skipping lunch to watch. A man, obviously the teacher or composer, sat staring at the wall, scrutinizing every sound. The atmosphere was relaxed tho, but intense + loud. It was so natural for them .. no written music, impossible to write probly, they learned all by example + intuition. They have severed the cord between mind + instrument ... their arms + fingers flying at superhuman speeds, while their eyes were glazed out into space.
After that i came across the art center as well ... a few KM down the road. What a cool place to study. Intensely intricate architecture in these beautiful gardens. Huge pagodas + statues everywhere, dragon bridges over meandering streams. There was an exhibit full of Balinese art .. paintings, sculpture, music making ... traditional to contemporary. + i was the only 1 in the whole 2 story gallery. I talked w/ some of the students ... they are definitely different than art students in America. Its almost like they are business students.
Got another bemo to Kerenang, from Kerenang i got a dokar to Gaja Mada (downtown). Dokars are little 3 wheel jobbies that sound like they have lawn mower engines. Somehow they managed to cram 10 people in back. I was totally lost + disoriented but i didn't care. It gets to a point where things get so fast + hectic that you just get high off it + just hang on. Masses of modeds, bicycles, bemos, dokars + horses all somehow narrowly missing eachother + the pedestrians running across the road. Gaja Mada was a trip. Remnants of a lost tourist area. The shops sill feel out of the 70s. Totally deserted as far as tourists go. The market was huge ... 2 big 4 story buildings. All these women wanted to be my guides. I figured at least i could get some passion fruits. She led me thru the maze of fruits ... sure enough, these big orange things (unlike the small purple ones in in Flores). They were selling a lot of stuff for Hindu offerings.
I went to the 4th floor ... great view. Temple below w/ women sprinkling water about nonchalantly performing rituals. Placing flowers + offerings. A river ran by w/ swallows in a frenzy feeding off the top. Huge movie posters, colorful + dramatic, hung from the other buildings. A huge parking lot full of mopeds. Some woman was laying on the ground w/ all these people—presumably strangers—propping her up. Seemed she had fainted or was having a seizure. She was unconscious + involuntary twitching + going into convulsions. Occasionally she would start screaming these loud eerie shrieks that are still imprinted in my brain, haunting. She would start kicking + twisting in elliptic (?) fits. This girl next to me told me she was in shock. That she fell down. Some 1 else said she was in a car accident. No 1 could get the story straight. There was no visible wounds. All these women were caressing her all over + rubbing this ointment on her. They were massaging her feet + hands especially. The funny thing is that they didn't seem too concerned + were totally mellow about it. They saw me + smiled, "hello meestair!" then babbled something while laughing, probly saying something like "don't worry, she does this all the time."
This went on for quite a while. She'd kick + shake + moan + scream—writhing in agony like was possessed. Maybe she was. Many hands held her from hurting herself, a buffer of soothing bodies, gently comforting her. Finally they carried her away. I heard the screams in the distance, over wild screeching nasal Hindu music blaring thru tinny metal loudspeakers. The whole scene was eerie + mystical + left me haunted + mesmerized. The statues next to the screaming woman remained undaunted + fixed in their graceful yet demonic poses. Old women continued shuffling flowers + incense about. Life goes on.
Walked back to Tegal + got a bemo back to Kuta... i was the only 1 in it. Amazing. Got my B+W pictures back ... they did a shitty job. And none of the ones of Villys family [who i met in Flores] came out. Bought Island of Bali by Miguel Covarrubias, which looks like a gem—detailed account of Balinese culture, rituals, music + art, social life, sexuality, etc. Written by none other than the great Mexican painter. It's been thundering + pouring. The streets are flooded + muddy. I'm sitting this huge seafood restaurant ... one of the items on the menu is "boiled hand crap"! I'm in a predicament over getting presents so i can hurry up + send them so i can escape this hell hole.
Ubud Dec 21 (22?)
Back again—it's always nice to return to a place. Got fed up w/ Kuta + impulsively split. Why was i there in the 1st place? The only way to fend off all the pushy vendors is to be stern + unfriendly. And the locals carry the weight of it being such a touristy shit hole + are generally unpleasant. The whole place is a pit of negative emotion. Got to [Ubud] + ate in the market. Real food at last. Ran into Mora (7th time) + she was without Marcel. He got malaria + is very ill in Denpasar. [... i walked 2 km to Peliatan to see..] Legong. Got there about 45 minutes early + the 1st two rows were already full of high-tech Japanese guys w/ video cameras + lighting, etc. The other seats in front were being held by Balinese boys, sent by rich Americans from big hotels. Fuck that. I took one of the seats + started talking friendly to the dude. He didn't have the heart to tell me to leave (he was holding about 10 seats anyway). These real lame Americans came. Rich + uptight. Grandma, mom + pastey fat daddy w/ an only child my age (also pastey + gross) w/ this incredibly beautiful girlfriend. And his friend + his mother. They were complaining about the chairs (which seemed nice enough) + were trying desperately to fan themselves. God forbid they break a sweat. The guy was groaning + said it was the most uncomfortable he'd ever been. That they had to resort to drinking beer, holding the bottle like a wine glass smeared in shit.
The dancing was incredible as well as the music. Top notch. Especially this one dance w/ 3 little girls (maybe 8-9 years old). They dance w/ such vigor + elegance + maturity in a very professional manner. Another dance this guy played the terompong while dancing. They also did the Barong dance .... this time the Barong was a large bull. Overall really impressive. [.. followed by postcards of Legong + a painting by Anton Kustia Widjaja .. again, photos of this event didnt turn out ..]
Woke up + went to the museum Puri Lukisan. Caught the tail end of a procession on the way. The museum had tons of stuff. My favorites were by Widjaja. I was inspired so i went + got J + Ñ a really cool painting. It's really small but the detail is amazing—Barong dance w/ all sorts of Gadja witches + other stuff [.. think we actually ended up keeping it unless we got another for ourself.. ]. Also got a a Garuda mask for Kevi ... i believe that completes my xmas shopping spree. It will be nice to send everything home + travel lightly, buying nothing more.
The Covarrubias book is great. I'm living it. I notice all the things he talks about concerning Balinese customs. Ate dinner at this food stall next to this Balinese couple w/ their kids. He held the kid the whole time feeding him, then washed the kid's hands w/ his tea. Balinese rarely speak while eating. + sure enough (just like Covarrubias said), i've never heard a Balinese baby or kid cry. Just sat + watched them eat, everything the do, ritually w/ grace, even the way they rinse their mouth out + spit it on the floor after. Their whole life style performed—but not dictated—thru ritual. I could tell they were observing me as well + it made me aware of my own ritualistic behavior that i take for granted. I'm torn over ritual. In one respect it eliminates free well + the pursuit of individualistic style, but it also gives a certain meditative + beautiful aspect to otherwise mundane events.
Walked to Pejeng. I got a km from Ubud + suddenly in a new world—walking on a track thru rice fields + small villages w/ little kids chasing behind + all the dogs barking like i was a demon. I asked a few hundred times til i finally got to Pejeng + the "temple of the moon". Not too impressive as far as the temple structures go, but it does house the largest [gong] cast from a single mold in the world. + it sits up in this ragged wooden tower in this little village. This kid acted as my guide (tho i couldn't understand most of what he said). Some believe the drum to be from Bali, but more likely it was brought from Vietnam (the book says China). Nobody (not even priests) are allowed to approach it. Supposedly it was the moon—it fell into a tree + made it too light for thieves so some one pissed on it + that's why it has a big crack in the base.
I kept walking, by groups of men squatting + stroking their prized fighting cocks. I was invited to a cock fight (although they are illegal now in Bali) but i declined. The archaelogical museum was closed. Kept walking, must've walked over 10 km today. Stopped at a roadside stand for a drink. This young fashionable couple from Denpasar pulled up on a motorcycle. In faded jeans + stylin hairdos. Both were quite good looking, especially his girlfriend w/ pointy lips + wispy hair. He was very talkative but his girlfriend didn't say a word, tho he'd ask her certain words in English so she obviously spoke better English. When i directed questions to her, he would answer. He was a university student from Denpasar, just going out to Ubud for the hell of it. He wanted me to go to Denpasar + stay w/ him, kept saying over + over how glad he was he met me. He asked for my address then his girlfriend snatched it from his hands + stared at it.
I continued on to Goa Gajah (the elephant caves). An eerie cave w/ an elaborate carved doorway. Inside were lanterns—some Balinese women went in as well but freaked out + wouldn't go in. Shiva + Ganesha were in there w/ lots of offerings, including a lot of money sitting on a dish. I ventured into the gardens + came across this Buddha statue off in a corner. What it was doing there i don't know. It started to pour + i had to sit under shelter reading until it stopped. Refreshed. Men were washing completely naked on the side of the road. Oh yah, the kid at the moon temple talked w/ me for quite a while, asking me all about Kuwait. Provoking conversation. Then he said there would be a cremation in this village Gabjar tomorrow + his brother would take me on his motorcycle.
Christmas Day Dec 25 1 a.m.
What a better thing to do on X-mas than go to a Hindu funeral. My ride to Gianyar sounded more + more sketchy. I met this other guy that wanted to take me on his motorcycle, but he didn't have a license + wanted me to drive. He also had to be in Denpasar at 4 pm (before the cremation was over). He also wanted too much money. I ended up leeching off the Swedes next door—Anders, Sara, Johana + this Danish guy John. We chartered this guy's mini-van. It was a minor scam ... he dropped us off (he was supposed to be our guide) + split. We were 2 hours early, nobody was there except some men putting the final touches on the tower. A feast was going on in the house of the family of the deceased. The whole mood was more like a party or celebration ... no [mourning at all. CONT BELOW]
[.. baby chickens hung off the side ..] They lifted—and everything seemed to be in turmoil. They were yelling + screaming, staggering + spinning the tower in circles—all to confuse + disorient the spirits so they don't come back to haunt the family. Other people sprayed them w/ hoses from the side of the road. They ran up the road then came back. Then they put the coffin in. Lots of colorful women came out w/ huge offerings they carried on their heads. Then they lifted again, this time w/ one coffin + the priest up top in the house .. the priest had sprinkled the remains w/ holy water. What was in the coffin was just the bones. The bodies had been dead + buried for 3 years + they had gone + dug it up. The family finally had enough money now for the cremation. They spin it around in circles again running up + down the road in a chaotic frenzy. Away from the house they let down a line, which all the members of the family grabbed + pulled the tower to the cremation grounds a few km away. There they took the coffin off the tower + put it on the another covered platform. Normally they burn the tower as well, but maybe this guy was really low + poor.
For quite a while people kept bringing all sorts of offerings + the priest was saying all sorts of prayers + placing them on top. It was packed w/ people + you couldn't see what was going on. The gamelan had been playing this monotonous music the whole time (perhaps to drive the soul away?). They set the chickens free + they flew up into the trees. I found it ironic they used chickens when they used to use pigeons. But the chickens flew well. The soul had flown. Then they lit the coffin + all the offerings, painted banners, etc. on a fire w/ the help of 2 flamethrowers (this is the modern age!). The whole atmosphere was casual + social. People were joking + poking at the ashes to make sure it was all burning.
Our driver met us + took us back. Funny guy ... he was telling us about his 2 wives + how he manages. He likes the younger prettier one better of course. What's really strange was that he married both at the same time. They live in separate houses.
So this was Xmas eve ... a cremation, funeral party. I was w/ the Scandanavians + they celebrate Xmas on the 24th so what the hell. Merry Xmas. We had a grand + festive + unusual feast. To start things off we had this spicy fruit wine that we drank hot + w/ nuts sprinkled in. Anders had brought it all the way from Sweden for the occasion. Then we had boiled potatoes + a special canned herring in this special sauce (also from Sweden). It was very good. Scandanavians are fanatic about herring + boiled potatoes, + have it for all special occasions. Then we had "Schnapps," which was actually just Vodka. They sang strange Swedish folk song + on a certain pause we would down our drinks. Then we had rambutans + prawn crackers + a Balinese form of Doritos (stale) + then got the beer out. We also had these special gingerbread cookies (from Sweden). John got his harmonica out + started playing Danish folk songs. I got mine out + we played some duets. I tried to teach him the Blues but it was too weird for him. The rain was pouring all night, but we were hot + sweaty. Then we had "Irish Coffee" (actually Balinese coffee w/ whiskey + UHT milk). A strange line of conversation went well into the 25th (at which point they wished ME merry X-mas) ... a twisted + sick conversation that ranged form intestinal worms + parasites to prostitution + what they do in nightclubs in Bangkok.
Christmas Day—Ubud, Bali
Called home this morning, like E.T. Had to wait for about an hour. There were 6 other people waiting, all from California. Quite funny, 1 person would get off the phone + we'd find out what was going in California before even phoning. Talked to Mom, Kevin + [A]. Everything seems fine at home, yet so far away. [S] + her family are in Baja so didn't talk to her. After that, i finally got everything together + sent it off. 16 kilos, including 2 packing crates. $50 each. Probably as much as what the contents were worth. But it was a nice big shit to take, a load off my mind to not have to carry. Now i'm free to wander light (sent my sleeping bag, jeans, sweatshirt, etc. home as well) + i don't feel compelled to look in shops for presents. I was beginning to hate shopping + haggling for prices.
Keep running into Ric, the boring school teacher from Norcal who i last saw in Fiji + who shined on the Adelaar trip [ .. 'shine' is how we used to say 'blow off' in the 80s ..] . John, Sara + Johanna left to Batur but were replaced by 2 more Swedes, Ulrich + Elena—a couple who are both chemical engineers (tho they don't act like it). I started reading Ray Bradbury's Death is a Lonely Business ... at first seemed a little absurd, set in Venice in the 30s during the winter when its foggy, damp + cold. A spooky eerie stories, but i couldn't get into it in sunny Bali.
Then the weather took a turn. It started to drizzle, then rain more + more, + it became darker + colder, not just the usual passing shower. I wrapped myself in my sarong + let the shivers run down my spine, entranced by the book, letting it sweep me away. Finally pried myself away from it when my insides started growling for food. Wrapped myself in plastic + went out w/ Ulrich + Eleana to eat at the market. Barefoot, splashing in puddles, squishing mud between toes. Ate at a foodstall barely covered by a sheet of plastic. Water splashing all around except on us. Excellent (enak enak) food as usual from my one favorite + cheapest stand, confirming my theory that the cheaper the food, the better it tastes. Met this guy Wayang (1st child low caste ... essentially what Wayang means) who was a driver + told me a lot of interesting stuff about Balinese Hinduism. Tomorrow i may go to a wedding, or to Batur, who knows + who cares. I feel great now, cold + cozy + snuggly + ready to bury myself in a good book. [followed by a consultation of the I Ching ...]
[And every bemo...] they try to rip you off + you have to hassle w/ them. + after all that ... no mail. Not under W, not under D, not in the packages, + not in today's mail.
Had some nasi sayur + iced tea and talked to some man from Flores + then all the way back. But by then i was into it, getting so insanely uncomfortable i was enjoying it in a sick way. Hanging out the door holding on for dear life to a little strip of metal, flying on backroads (bypassing road repairs) past rice fields + naked women bathing. Got back + read then heard distant gamelan music + went to check it out ... following my ears (can never resist the sound of live music). Came across this huge procession. Hundreds of people in the best shiny yellow sarongs, flower + offerings. A marching gamelan + elaborate flowers, decorated boxes or shrines carried by 6 men. Kids carrying huge banners, flags, 20-30 feet high. I followed, they ended in this really cool temple down in a lush gorge. Luckily i had my sarong in my bag so i could enter the temple. I found out later it was a "cleansing" ceremony. They were chanting + praying under umbrellas (it was sprinkling) Looked really funny. They only them down when the priest same to sprinkle holy water on them. Some of the tourists were amassing. Large signs said no entry without the right dress (sarong + temple scarf (which i had), no shorts, + now flash photography). But these assholes in shorts staggered around snapping flash photos, while the people were praying. And they were climbing the walls when no one is ever supposed to be above the priest. Absolutely nor respect ... it was embarrassing.
Followed it back. Back by the losmen on the corner by the stream, they were slaughtering a pig + washing the intestines + livers in the stream. Blood everywhere .. dead pigs, these huge beasts laying there like beached whales, 6 of them. I walked by later + they were divvying up the meat then sticking it in a big bowl + smashing + squishing it (mortal + pestle style). Slimey almost liquid meat splatted on me as i walked by. They had a huge fire + were making hundreds of satays for the wedding tomorrow (that was supposed to be today). I went + ate [at my favorite stall. Excellent as usual...]
[... I hung around waiting to see the wedding. The gamelan ...] came + was playing in the temple. I watched for quite a while as people came w/ offerings + presents (gift-wrapped) + then they went thru an invitation only door. It could've gone on all day so i grabbed by bag + hopped a bemo. First to Gianyar, an interesting big town. Then to Bangli. From the packed bemo i could see some pretty large + impressive temples. I'll have to return. At Bangli i got another bemo to Penelokan. It was full of a different breed of Balinese—an intense looking mountain people w/ bonier facers, rogue red cheek + all around weathered look. The women were intensely beautiful. This one woman had her arm around me in the packed bemo + i could feel her energy radiating.
We rose + rose, step by step up the terraces of rice—thru lush jungles, hugging ravines. Could see the landscape dropping off all the way down to the sea. Great scenery. It got greyer + colder (Tony Wheeler claims it drops 3° for every 235 meters). As we climbed over the ridge i was surprised to see a parking lot full of tour busses. Hundreds of tourists. On my travels up on the bemos i had not encountered a single 1, they call came in organized tours. They weren't just "foreign" tourists, but most of them Indonesians, day trippers from Denpasar or even from Java. No surprise as the view is absolutely magnificent. I got a room overlooking it all then ventured out. Intense looking women selling things, passion fruits (yes! .. the good, purple ones). I bought 8 + ate them all along w/ 2 mangosteens (manggis) which i'm not crazy about. + corn on the cob—2 of those. Then i had little fried fish in this little warung. It's biting cold here, hard to imagine just this morning this was all i wanted more than anything, an escape from the heat. But now i'm already longing for a hot beach.
The sun is slowly fading grey out of the sky + i'm drinking tea after tea, looking out over Mt Batur, contemplating it all. Something about it is indescribable, so polar opposite, contrasting (with the ocean), almost sexual. Here i am on a crater in the crater at the base of another crater. At the base of Batur is a big deep lake. Death. The volcano is life. It is still active, it buried a couple of villages back in the 60s. You can see its rugged black lava flow flowing right into the lake. It must have been a hell of a sight to watch it from up here. It is its own world within a world, water fire, earth, air. Layer upon layer of clouds, shrouded over us like blankets. I have only seen Batur in its entirety for a few moments. The rest of the time it is shrouded. Christ it's cold. I'm writing by candle light + it is blowing in an icy draft. I'm amazed it doesn't go out. Its hostile up here + full of ghosts. + i'm feeling fine. It's quiet now, the tourists went hope, back to the Bali Beach hotel, to warmth + comfort. A cute little puppy is climbing my chair + biting w/ his not so cute teeth. My hand is bleeding + my new styling shirt is ripped. Now here's his mother. Spank the hell out of em, yeah, that's right, bite back! Hey you, bring me some chocolate pancakes + more tea. Embarking on Steppenwolf. Turn up that eerie dark gamelan music.
Fell asleep at 5 pm, woke up at 7 pm to gamelan music. Went back to bed at 10 pm. Woke up again at 1, 2, 3 a.m. Twisted dreams [the methloquin?]. I got up + walked outside wrapped in my sarong. Clear + cold. I could the volcano in the moonlight, + the lake smooth as a mirror. Again at 6 a.m. Ate my last passionfruit then got a bemo down to Kedisan for 300 rp when all these other dudes wanted 10,000 rp. In Kedisun dogs barked at me at the crossroads, but no bemo came. I hitched a ride w/ a yuppie NY couple but they weren't going all the way. The road was winding thru twisted lava fields + the remnants of a town that had been buried. I got another ride in the back of a cement truck, + they just happened to be going to the losmen i wanted to go to. Its beautiful here. Little town nestled in huge formations of free flow lava, right on the crystal clear lake. Across the lake is Trunang + a huge cliff rising straight up a few thousand feet. Clouds swirl everywhere + dance against the mountains. Walked around then took a hot tub. Ah! Hot water, the 1st time in a while. They channel it into these big baths, in the temple-like formation. Sat there for quite a while socializing w/ these guys from Jakarta ... very different than Balinese. They kept talking behind my back (in Bahasa) speaking negatively about America. The women would shyly get in w/ all their clothes on. Now i sit + watching intense rainbows on the awesome escarpment + a brilliant yellow sunset ... in anticipation of climbing Batur at 4 a.m. to see the sunrise. Some kid wanted to take me for 25,000 rp then 5,000 then 3,000, telling me i would get lost without him. I kept asking + found a sign pointing out the path.
Kalibukbuk, Lovina Beach—Dec 29
Saw the sun rise a mile high in the sky + now watching it set here at Lovina beach. Birth + death. If you saw a picture of a sunset or sunrise you wouldn't be able to tell which is which. Reversible processes. Time dependent. Before 4 a.m. i was up. Hard to motivate to get up, dark + cold + cloudy + the dogs were barking like crazy. But i did. Freezing out. Walked thru the village. Was approached by sleepy-eyed kids wrapped in sarongs, "you need guide?" Politely declined + went to the sign that said "Batur climb—2 hours" w/ an arrow. Undoubtedly put there by these kids to lead people astray.
Went up the marked trail as this kid followed me thru rice fields + backyards, not going up the volcano. "You sure you don't need a guide?" Bartered him down to 1000 rp to at least show me the beginning. I was in no position to argue as i had just passed the path. He led me thru a series of paths that eventually led to a main road, straight forward from there. I left him + continued on. Passed a group of 7 Swiss w/ 3 guides (carrying buckets of coke on their shoulders). Then my light got very dim. None of the 6 extra batteries i bought were any good. So i waited. Me + this long-haired Cromagnon looking Swiss guy + one of the guides went barreling up. It got colder + the air thinner. Looking back you could see the lake in the moonlight + a series of dozens of a dozen lights snaking up behind us. From the west you could see a trail of some 30 lights ... a procession from the temple. It got to be a 45° cone of ash + volcanic rock, but it was pitch black so couldn't see much.
2 hours later we reached the summit. It was still dark out .. the 1st tinges of purple were showing in the sky. At the top there was a restaurant w/ a full menu at fairly reasonable prices. Definitely qualifying as the "restaurant at the end of the universe". This women came up out of the blackness, w/ no light + carrying a huge basket balanced on her head. She wasn't even out of breath, in fact she was whistling. How she managed to keep her balance is beyond me as we were tripping + sliding all over + had lights + nothing balanced on our heads. Not to mention we had sturdy shoes + she was wearing flip-flops. Unbelievable ... she walked into the kitchen, took a transistor radio out + her supplies, + began singing + cooking.
Slowly the sun came + it was unbelievable. Over the outer crater (not the 1 we were on) we could see Mt. Agung + we could even see Rinjani on Lombok. The swirling lava fields below were intense.... + the lake! I skirted the crater rim w/ these 2 guys from NY. The fog came rolling in, turned a bright orange by the rising sun. Steam was bellowing from various spots in the crater. These kids from the restaurant at the end of the universe were cooking eggs by sticking them in little crevices where the steam was coming out. Hard boiled in 10 minutes! I went back to the restaurant—a shack half buried in dirt for insulation, + had a tea that tasted like hot sewage water. I plugged in Neil Young + went around to the other side of the crater. At some points the ridge was a few inches wide feeling almost vertical on both sides. + i could only see ahead a few feet in the mist + the wind was howling + it was freezing, except when i passed near the fissures issuing steam. I hung around the other side for a while. It cleared up + you could see the procession coming up. Some men were cutting wood + grass.
I "skied" most of the way down, in piles of sharp volcanic stones (tore up my shoes some) + came out at the buried village + had to walk 6 km back to town as the only cars that went by were packed full of people, livestock + fruits, etc. Washed up + had breakfast + hit the road. These guys wanted 10,000 to charter a bemo so i kept walking, sticking out my thumb (quite a novel concept to them). The 2nd car that came was a truck full of these weird guys from Jakarta, they picked me up. Very strange. All they knew how to say was Rambo, Michael Tyson, Iraq, George Bush, Levis, Heavy Metal + Iron Maiden. America this, America that. Far different than Balinese. They wanted to see my sunglasses, how much they cost, etc. They wore glasses, bandanas, Levis jackets w/ heavy metal slogans + military fatigues. They yelled lewd comments + blew kisses at all the passing girls. They dropped me off in Penelokan. I waited a while for a bus but hitched a ride instead (after stocking up on another kilo of passionfruit) w/ this conservative Bostonian couple that had been living in Japan for 2 years teaching at an international school. She was a nervous driver but at least i could see where we were going.
2 hours later Singaradja—we walked around looking for a place on the beach. They stayed at a place way out of my range. I asked around + found a place for $1.50 a night including breakfast, talk about low budge. I sold 3 books, each for more than the price of a nights accomodation. Had an amazing fish curry for lunch. I went into this warung + this cute little 12-year old was crashed on the beach + i woke her up, she cooked the fish curry all by herself! Went to watch the sunset, some guy Puta (haha) wanted to sell me mushrooms, then he wanted to take me to his house to play his guitar, than he wanted to take me snorkeling, then he wanted to take me to Bedugul on his motorbike, then he wanted to take me to the movies, etc.. Finally he introduced me to his sister who wanted to "sell me something" (he had also offered me get me a Balinese girl at 1 point ... "have you tried? w/ a Balinese girl?') I was skeptical, but all she wanted to sell me was a cup of tea.
Had a revelation while i was on the beach. Go home March 9th for D + L's wedding than arrange a surprise b-day party for S... she'd have no idea i'd be home. The only catch is doing Malaysia, Thailand, India + Nepal by then. Tentative itinerary (starting from Probolingo where i'm going tonight):
Thus giving my trip a conceptual meaning ... starting in the middle of the Pacific, the basin of the world, + finishing up in the Himalayas, the top of the world. Now i got ants in my pants + am itching to fly, to move. This is all assuming my money holds out .. spent more than expected so far, mostly cuz of Australia. Starting to get a bit weary, lack of meaning, not sure i could make it until next summer. Better to go home + get a job, get my teaching credential. Make more money so i can travel more or join the Peace Corpse or something. Give meaning to the travel. Maybe this feeling will pass but i really wouldn't mind being in California right about now.
Yogyakarta, Java—Jan 1, 1991
A new year, a new island. Java! After an insane spree of travel topping my 26 hours Komodo —> Lombok stint. 32 straight hours of continuous travel, involving busses, boats, chartered jeeps, becaks, trains + my feet. Everything but planes (could've taken a horse as well, up Bromo, but i chose to walk).
It all started at about 7 PM on Dec 29 ... since then there has been no break in the motion. No sleep + hardly any food. At 7 pm i hopped the bus from Lovina (Bali)—the nicest bus i've ever been on—AC + an assigned seat! Flying thru west Bali, like a bat out of hell, forcing people + lower forms of vehicles off the road. Got to the ferry dock, many busses + boats. Sat there for quite a while w/ the engines running + smoke everywhere. I dozed of, vaguely remember spending a long time maneuvering onto the boat. I had no sense of time. I thought we were still waiting for more busses to pull in, engines still running, time passed. I thought we were reparking, but next thing i know we are backing off the boat, in Java. Didn't even feel the motion of being on a boat. Right away Java felt different, everything is on a bigger scale here, more "civilized" in the sense of knowing it's place in the world. The Javanese landscape seen by the headlights + full moon from a speeding bus was also very different ... large trees, thick forests, what looked like pine trees, mixed in w/ large palms. The roads were wider, actually big enough for 2 cars to pass without slowing down or having to pull over.
The man next to was from Surabaya, he'd heard (seen) Sekar Jaya (the Berkeley gamelan ensemble) play in Java + spoke highly of them. + to think i'd played w/ them, + performed for their dancers in Santa Cruz. I guess i really had no plan, except i knew i had Probolingo in my mind, or maybe even Ngadisiri + see Bromo the next day. I dozed off, spaced out. My eyes burning. I couldn't sleep for more than 15 minutes at a time which only made me more tired. I was woken up in a daze + pushed off the bus. In a large dirty city at 1:30 a.m. What the fuck am i doing here? Some man said, "Bromo?" so i said, sure, whatever. Whenceforth i experience my first becak ride ... soon to become my favored means of transportation—a 1 speed pike w/ a cart in front in which you sit w/ your backpack (or pieces of plywood, bundles of sugarcane, goats, etc.)
Next thing i know i was flying thru the streets of Probolinggo, the full moon + the wind in my face (not to mention speeding busses + motorcycles that we narrowly missed). Brought me back to life. The driver kept saying "Bromo" + "full moon". I hadn't until then considered seeing it that morning. We got to this house where the becak driver introduced me to "Guan". Guan was definitely a cool dude + his english was perfect. He spoke w/ a funny Australian accent due to watching Australian TV. He proposed taking me all the way to Mt. Bromo in his jeep. It was clear, full moon. If i waited til tomorrow it would be cloudy. What the hell. It was 130,000 rp. which was a lot, but i was free to "charter" it out ... i.e. i could find other travellers + collect whatever i wanted from them. We went to this aunt's house. ... a sectioned off portion of this strange convenant-like building. Guan had this German girlfriend, but she didn't want to come along. we got blankets + checked the vehicle—a Toyota Landcruiser + then were off. He had a nice stereo—i put in some REM then crawled in back to try to sleep. No chance, he was flying around hairpin corners thru these steep mountains. Fumes were pouring thru the car. But i was high as hell laying in the back listening to Michael Stipe. "Here's a scene, you're in the backseat, laying down, the windows wrap around to the sound of the travel + the engines ... + all you hear is time stand still in travel ..." almost like he wrote it just for me, for this situation. Here i was in this noisy Jeep flying thru the mountains of Java w/ the full moon + the stars out the window, too tired to sleep, time taking on a new dimension. And yes, this was all for me. "...that doesn't end but slowly drifts into sleep, the stars are the greatest thing you've ever seen + they're there for you..."
It's easy to get into the frame of mind where i'm going to Bromo for Bromo + not for me. A sort of obligation, "You've got to see Java, you've gotta see Bromo." But i didn't have to do anything. I was free to do whatever. This was my chartered jeep. I was in control. Everything was beautiful, even tho i didn't feel so good, really tired + hadn't eaten anything for a day, + even then just lots of passionfruit +the pineapple juice w/ cockroach legs in it back in Batur. Might have had "Bali belly" if i had something substantive in my belly, good thing as there was no toilet of course.
We reached Ngadasiri after an hour or so + tried to find other people to take up to the viewpoint, to no avail ... started to panic a bit thinking about how much it would cost if i couldn't find anyone. Then went on to the town of Bromo, a funky town hugging a steep cobblestone roads winding thru the mountains. It was 3 a.m. but everybody was awake, bundled in sarongs + blankets w/ full face knit hats, leading horses or waiting for their jeeps. Sleepy eyed tourists—mostly Javanese, Malaysian or Chinese ... saw very few "westerners" maybe 1 out of 100—who wandered aimlessly or were placed on the backs of little horses or crammed in jeeps. I dozed off in the coldness while Guan found 8 people from Singapore + Hong Kong. Figured 15,000 rp a piece was fair, 8 x 15,000= 120,000. I only paid 10,000 but hey, it was my charter + i had the stress of finding people. So i took over the co-pilot spot + crammed them all in back. Merged w/ the convoy of jeeps + horses going down + down into the crater.
Like Batur, Bromo is actually 3 volcanoes inside a volcano w/ a few others skirting the outside. [.. pasted-in description + photo of Bromo from tourist publication ..]. The roads were pretty bad + it was easy to see why only 4WD Jeeps + horses were making the trip. We zig-zagged down into the crater + across the "sea of sand" ... a completely flat plane of black ash. Most of the Jeeps + horses stopped at the crater inside the crater—Bromo—but we continued on w/ the smaller pilgrimage heading up the higher opposite rim of the crater. We went about an hour up this incredibly steep road—½-way up it became very foggy + we couldn't se a thing. Just our luck! But once we reached the top, we broke above the clouds. We walked the rest of the way up to this "observation area" just as the sun was coming up. There were 100s of tourists smoking cloves + snapping pictures of family + friends wrapped in blankets + smelling of nauseating menthol, wearing Vips vapor rub or something. But over the hordes of people it indeed was a worthy sight. It was foggy so all you could really see was the big volcano jutting thru the mist w/ plumes bellowing from it. Occasionally you could see the other volcanoes in the crater thru the patchy blanket of fog. The "top of the world" as Guan called it. He goes up there almost every day + says he is still forever amazed.
Then back down into the crater. We parked + i climbed the inner volcano (the rest were too lazy + waited at the Jeep). Inside was yet another amazing sight—a steaming, hissing cauldron w/ amazing colors + textures. Back down to the Jeep ... at this point i ended up in another Jeep for some reason. I couldn't find Guan. Some other Jeep driver said he went down w/ the others, but that he would take me. We went down + found "playboy" Guan as i started calling him, flirting w/ these American girls. "Oh give me a kees before i go, pleaassee, just a keeees." We found 5 others to go back down to Probo ... 10,000 rp a piece, so now i was profiting from this whole thing! But figured breaking even was good enough ... took 10,000 for myself + gave the rest (40,000) to Guan as a tip. Not such an easy job for him ... he saved up for 3 years to buy the Jeep (2.6 million rupees). That's hundreds of trips (especially when you consider the cost of petrol) to make that money back. He has no insurance ... so if he crashes, he loses it all. But comparatively he's better off than most.
As we drove down the main artery i was amazed by the types of transport + things they were carrying. Bicycles carrying huge bundles of sugarcanes over a meter wide + high, mopeds w/ whole families, the women riding nonchalantly side-saddle, construction workers on motorcycles w/ their building materials—sheets of glass, bricks, long pipes ... ox-pulled rickety old cars carrying bags of rice, mounted by men sleeping w/ reins in hand, becaks carrying artists + their paintings, modeds w/ huge fish stacked in banana leaves, busses full of tourists from Jakarta, water buffalo in their yokes returning from the fields ... all sharing the same dusty road, in complete chaos, but everyone casual + in control. Quite efficient actually ... nothing wasted, all space filled.
Stopped at Guan's to get my pack then he took me the train station. Got there at 10:30, but the train to Surabaya wasn't until 1 (finally came around 3). All i wanted to do was rest, but anywhere you went were crowds of people that wanted to chat. I was accosted by this whole group of school kids going nowhere, just going to the train station to possibly meet someone that spoke english. After my advice in Flores to the school kids, how could i be rude + blow them off? At one point i had my passport, license, travellers checks, various denominations of dollars $10 $20, $50 dispersed amongst all these kids cuz they were curious to see ... + my bag was wide open, showing them all my stuff. These were all these things they had never seen + were curious about. It occurred to me this was stupid—these Chinese tourists looked at me in horror, w/ a face of "what the hell are you thinking?" but these kids wouldn't of even known what to do w/ this stuff. And thievery is just not in Muslim culture. Sooner or later all the stuff was handed back to me, after they passed it around to each have a look.
More kids came along asking all the same questions + wanting to see my passport + American money. "Excuse me sir, i would like to introduce myself... where are you from? When will you go home?, etc." As if they had memorized a script their teacher had given them. The concept of being away from home for over 6 months was mind-boggling to them. + of course, the most popular question in Java, "how about Iraq?" "What do you think of Saddam Hussein?" In Bali it was "where are you going?" here it was "how about Iraq?" over + over. What do i think of Saddam Hussein? He's a nut case. "What is a nut case?" He's crazy i would say. "How about George Bush?" He's crazy too. They both could die for all i care. But i didn't think there should be war. + then when you turned the questions around on them, they would giggle + not answer. "What do YOU think of Saddam Hussein?" If i pressed them to answer, that it was only fair since i answer, they would say "I don't know" or "I can't say." Or they'd see my shorts + pull on them + ask "why do you wear shorts?" They'd say that in Java it offends them to wear shorts. 1 kid asked me this as his 2 friends standing right next to him were wearing shorts. "Why do your friends wear shorts?" But they'd dismiss my question, "they are from Bali."
2 hours later the train came. 2nd class sold out so i got "ekonomi" + even then there was no seats, just wood benches that were all full of people smoking cloves. I propped my pack in the stairwell between carts—noisy as hell but the best view, + fresh air. Rice fields + millions of shanty back yards flashed by below my feet. Everything flooded + wet. Little houses went by forever—this was life. This was how 90% of the world lived. Java is one of the most densely populated places in the world. Everyone smiled + waved at this funny looking guy hanging out of the train. It was like 1 long movie, 2 hours long. The soundtrack being an unbearable screeching + grinding of metal on metal. I would doze + wake up w/ people all around me, kids running around, vendors selling surprise wrapped in banana leafs. I wandered thru the hot smokey carts + saw only 1 other westerner—some girl crashed out on a bench. I was dying for some stimulating conversation besides "where are you from?" or "how about Iraq?"
We got to Surabaya—there were no signs or announcements, so each stop i had to ask. Obviously not a good idea to fall asleep. I asked this guy if i should get off there to go to Yogya? Yes. So i did. Complete Chaos. Crowded terminal. People sleeping in lines in front of unattended ticket counters. All staring. Kids would walk up to me, "hello, excuse me, if, if you may but, but, ... i would like, i would like to introduce myself." Well, go on, spit it out! + while you're at it can you tell me how the fuck i get to Yogyakarta? Okay, maybe not those words, but along those lines. He stuttered + mumbled nervously, "are you, hap-happy to meet me? + how-how about Hussein?"
Sleeping families woke up + stared. I tried to make sense of the of the lines + signs, looking for something that said "Yogyakarta". People bumping into me left + right, bumping into my back. Another kid comes up. "Hello, excuse me, my name is—" My name is Derek, pleased to meet you. Can you tell me how i get to Yogyakarta?" "Jakarta?" "No, YOGYA" i wrote in letters on my hand. His lip twitched + beads of sweat formed on his forehead. "If you please sir, I would like to ask where do you come from?"
Finally some cop noticed my predicament + motioned me over. I felt bad leaving these kids, still trying hard to formulate sentences. But i'd lost patience. The cop led me to the "station master" ... a fat head-honcho type of guy w/ a moustache that was very friendly. He told me i had gotten off at the wrong station (there were 2 in Surabaya) + directed me to a cab to take me to the other station. The sprawl of Surabaya was unbelievable. Traffic everywhere, w/ no order. It took 45 minutes to go 3 km. The other station was not nearly as bad. I met this guy Ronnie w/ a U.S. Special Forces T-shirt—the kind w/ skulls + machine guns on it. He got me a ticket on the Mutiara Express. No 1st class + no sleeper. Ate a piece of bread + a handful of peanuts. Maybe trains came + went .... seriously "cattle cars" crammed w/ people.
Time went by. Hours spent sitting on my pack holding mindless conversations w/ Javanese guys (never approached by women). Finally the train came—got a seat next to some guy reading the Koran. He didn't even look up, read it 6 hours straight without even blinking. Trains are like dream. It was dark. I could feel motion but all i could see was a crowded smokey car jerking back + forth. Reality + sleep became synchronous. I would doze for what seemed like hours but it was only 10 minutes. I'd wake + everybody would be eating horrific smelling foods. Huge jack fruits (fact: jackfruits can grow up to 40 kg!) lay in the aisles, people would come cut off a chunk ... didn't seem to belong to any 1 in particular ... someone told me to get some so i cut a piece for myself. Not crazy about it raw, not nearly as good as it is cooked in curry. There were some soldiers in the seat next over. They were sleeping all cuddled up w/ each other, nestled like spoons, their feet intertwined, holding hands + also hugging their guns. Would've made a great photo, but only took a "mental snapshot" ... didn't want to spoil the scene while i was in it.
Time went on. Since i left on the even of Dec 29, i also managed to read ½ of Homer's Odyssey. Good stuff. I was really getting into his hardship-ridden adventures + could sort of relate to the fatigue Odysseus experienced floating on the ocean for 9 days. All i have to say is where the hell is Nausicaa when i need her? Oh where art thy fair beautiful maiden to bathe me + anoint me w/ olive oil + feed me bread + wine + give me "bedstead in the portico furnished w/ the finest purple rugs." I was as far away from Greece as one could possibly be.
I asked a passing porter when we would get to Yogya. He said 4 hours. It was 10:30. At 11:45 we pulled into Yogya (I saw a little sign ... good thing i didn't decide to join the sprawl of sleeping bodies on the floor. Grabbed my bag + shoes + rushed off into the station amidst hordes or more sleeping bodies. Many "Yogya trendies" playing guitars, writing poetry or whatever. Sleeping in one huge continuous group, leaving barely a path to walk thru + down + out of the station. Long hair yogyas w/ no homes, just a small pack + maybe a beaten up black guitar they bartered from some Dutch traveller. I got a becak to Jalan Pasar Kembang. Everyone was yelling + screaming, honking their horns. Blowing whistles. At first i thought it might be a riot, or they won a sports game. Champagne corks were flying, everyone was yelling "Tahun Baru! Tahun Baru!" I was wheeling down the street thru the celebrating crowds. "Happy New Years meestair!" someone yelled, throwing confetti on me. Duh! I had completely forgotten about New Years. The becak dropped me off + i wandered [through these narrow alleys trying to find a room.]
[... yet another becak ride ...] The most insane new Years i've ever spent! We hit Jalan Malioboro—the main drag—in full swing. Packed w/ people screaming + hooting so thick i didn't even think we'd get thru, but that didn't stop the becak driver. He just plowed right thru, ringing his bell, hitting people or nipping their legs if they didn't move. It just added to everyone's fun. People blew big horns in my face. Wild in the streets. There were crowds gathered so thick in circles that i couldn't see what they were looking at, but it must've been amusing as everyone was laughing + hooting. Little kids doing tricks on BMX bikes or skateboards in the middle of the street. The occasional group of tourists drinking champagne or being hustled. Loud music everywhere. Other vehicles flying by narrowly missing us. Horses, bicycles, mopeds. Street + sidewalks merged. + the best thing about it was i didn't have to move a muscle except to kick people that fell in front of us + tell them to move (which they seemed to enjoy). I was stuck in the front of this speeding vehicle i had no control over, maneuvering thru masses of wild people going insane. At 1 point we followed this horse carriage so close that if it shat it would've been in my lap. People threw things at me + yelled in my hear "Selamat tahun baru! Tahun baru!" This went on for what seemed like forever.
We pulled off in Prawirotawan, the nice part of town + all the hotels were full. We rode "wisma" to wisma ... full, full. Same w/ the ramai. Finally i found a room but it was 30,000 rupees. What the hell, no choice. Air conditioning + all. Completely decadent. A bed w/ sheets! 2 of them! What a concept. It's always better when you look at things from American standards ... ~$15 for a top rate room w/ breakfast (or 10 nights in a decent losmen). By the time i got in my room it was 2 a.m. so sort of waste. 32 straight hours (lost an hour somewhere crossing a time zone) of continuous travel. I hadn't really slept for almost 48 hours .. + even then it was only for 4 hours, after climbing Batur. 8 hours of sleep in the last 4 days. I had eaten nothing but a piece of bread, some jackfruit, passionfruit, crackers + a handful of peanuts in this whole time. I crashed hard on that nice soft double bed.
I woke up just in time to check out (12 noon). I got another becak ride back to Jalan Pasar Kembang. A word about becaks ... i am totally in awe of becak culture. Becak drivers are almost a breed apart. They are usually really intense looking, w/ high cheek bones + muscular bodies, especially their legs. They are beasts of burden. Machines that run off nasi campur instead of gas. They work 24 hours a day (so 1 becak driver told me). "Business." Hard bargainers. Especially after you see the way they pump + sweat. When not cycling they sleep in their carts w/ the lids down, or they hang out in groups socializing + lounging on their seats. They eat in their becaks. They never leave the becak, they are like turtles + the bike is their shell. Seems they don't have homes or families. They go wherever their passengers dictate, a random path thoughout the city at all hours. They stop or sleep when they feel tired. Getting a bite to eat from a roadside warung. Everything they own they carry. The becaks are their prized possessions + are decorated accordingly. Elaborate grilled iron in twisty forms, every blank space is covered w/ intricate paintings—landscapes, tassles + bells everywhere, stickers, mirrors, etc... guess they don't know about multi-speed bikes or cant afford them. They all have 1-speeds. When stopped at intersections they get off + push to get it going again .. timing the revolution of the pedals until they know when to jump back on. After more searching i finally found a decent cheap room. Went to "supermans" a cool restarant w/ cool music, a menu 8 pages long (there was a whole page just for fruit drinks, including tomato-milk, carrot-coconut, lime-milk + such concoctions. I was boring + opted for banana-coconut. Yum. [batik iomage of becak driver followed by postcards of Bodobodur .. + then ..]
[... REached in the lattic + touched his feet (supposedly for good luck) On the upper level the ...] lattice bells on the inspection were empty (intentionally)(demonstrating non-iconism towards Nirvana). The top is a huge stupa (and a tower to heavan). Supposely the top had been struck by lightning in '84 + was badly damaged—not to mention that 9 of the Buddhas were blown up by Muslim extremists). Many of the statues + murals were sold or given away by the Dutch. I went back down + went thru all the murals again. So much work. It must have been looked intense when completely intact—uncorroded + painted a golden yellow. Or maybe it looks better now, in "ruins".
Chowed nasi pecel then got a becak the 5 km to Candi Merdut ... yet another Buddhist shrine. Inside this was a huge (3 meter high) statue of Buddha, sitting w/ his feet on the ground! ... flanked by 2 Bodhisattvas of the same proportions. My becak waited for + took me the bus station. He wanted me to take his picture + send it to him so i got his address ... funny scene, all the other becak drivers gathered around, intrigued, all wanting to give me their address.
On top of Borobudur i couldn't just sit without Jakartan tourists all wanting to take photos w/ them. They'd push their girlfriends toward me + tell me to put my arm around them. Or a group of guys would come up to me + draped their arms all over me like we'd been bosom buddies our whole lives. This happened dozens of times, over + over. [Was it my unruly shorts or my sporting batk shirt ...]
[... didn't want to deal w/ "how about Iraq?" ...] Back to Yogya ... walked to Maliboro, took my photos in. Took a nap. Back to Malioboro to wander. It was dark + some guy walked up to me w/ a glass ½ full of beer in his hand + offered me some. Yah, right ... + wake up w/ a splitting headache, ½-naked in the gutter w/ my passport + money gone? I said no + he threw his arm around me + sarcastically said "smart man". The beer looked like it had been sitting ½ full all afternoon. I watched him for a while + he never sipped it, just held it waiting for some unlucky tourist to come along. I thought about intervening, but it was obvious i was hanging around + he was w/ some other guys. Continued on + ran into some guy who told me where all the performances were. Even took me to a batik shop run by students from the university. Incredible work, but outrageous prices (up to $500). They wouldn't let me go ... would hold them up to the light to show me how the light came thru. Cool looking, but could never spend hundreds of dollars for a shirt.
Went down to Sultan's place, to the Sonobudoyo archaeological museum. where they were putting on a wayang kulit show. There i met this guy Totok who for some reason started rambling in Spanish (i told him i was from California). We talked in Spanish all night which was strange, him telling me about the instruments + the story in Spanish. ... "entonces Hanuman, el rey-chongo, fui a encontrar Sita para decirle que Laksmana y la esposa de Sita, Rama, estaban peleando con el rey demonico ..." The puppet show [.. glued in image of shadow puppets ..] was excellent ... besides the fact that there very few people, maybe 10 tourists + a bunch of becak drivers loitering in back. More performers than people in the audience. The instruments + props were all very antique as well as the clothes they wore. Court gamelan style. They gong player had 15 gongs to handle. The music was very different from what we played in Santa Cruz. Very slow + lackadaisical + majestic (especially compared to the Balinese style, very fast + staccato). The puppets were incredibly detailed + the shadows even had some color to them. It would've been more interesting if i could understand what he was saying. [more batik images] but it was more nice cuz you could walk back + forth to see behind the scenes.
After, Totok wanted to hear me play gamelan. I just hit a few random notes + he goes "ahh, you play Sundanese style." From the way i struck the notes he could pinpoint the city of my teacher—Bandung—and now that he mentioned it he was right, remembered Undang [my teacher back in Santa Cruz] saying this. He was definitely Sundanese. But then he grabbed the mallet from me + told me i couldn't play that style on these instruments. He taught me some riffs on the saron, bonang + gender ... + told me how they were made. I asked how much, say, a saron would cost... he just said "a lot" + wouldn't specify... told me i'd have to learn yogyakarta style before they let me buy an instrument here. I could go to Bandang, tho, + buy an instrument there! Very strange superstitions. We stayed there til very late. Everyone had long gone home + we had the place to ourselves, to play the gong or play w/ the puppets. I finally got a becak back + found the last restaurant open + got nasi kian + watch the Mr. T show.
[Around the perimeter in the inner courtyard are murals depicting the Ramayana epic ...] ... 72 panels in all (it continues in the Brahma temples) Followed the whole story thru. [pic of Ganesha] The Vishnu temple (north of Shiva) was completely shrouded in scaffolding from which emanated the sound of 100s of clinking chisels. I sat down to just look at the murals when this guy Sunarjo + his girlfriend come up—to practice english—accosted me for hours, couldn't shake them. I should charge people.
On the bus back sat next to this guy was studying genetic engineering at the university. Got a becak back to Malioboro, chowed some weird sauteed large beans. Went to the train station to get a train ticket, but on the way found a place that had a ferry schedule. [another pic of Ramayan reliefs] The Jakarta —> Singapore left just that day, but the Jakarta —> Medan was leaving saturday (it was thursday). So rather than leave tomorrow, i decided to leave then + there. It was 3 pm, got a ticket for 4 pm. Ran back to the "Gita Inn", showered + pack + ran back ... the bus was 2 hours late anyway. It took 10 hours to get to Jakarta ... i probably slept 2. It was pouring + thundering + i just sat there motionless. I was deeply moved by the guy next to me + his cute 6-year old girl. He gently cradled her in his arms + comforted her when she puked. Such affection, massaging her, caressing her hair, holding her while she slept. [next page i glued a map of Yogyakarta] + meanwhile on my right, this sophisticated woman kept nodding off against me, her head landing on my shoulder, she'd jerk awake w/ her head on my shoulder + get embarrassed + pull it off ... this happened a few times, but then she saw i didn't care + just put her head on my shoulder + went to sleep. I didn't exchange a single word w/ her.
I'm blown away by the kindness of Indonesians ... come to think of it, i've never seen an Indonesian get angry. Surprisingly enough, considering the way they drive. + such respect for their fellow man, as if everybody is family. Nobody is looked down on. The men seem to respect women + don't pester them (tho the women are rather repressed). No one ever drinks. But what's really surprising is that they really get into extreme violence in the movies or at puppet shows even, or that dancing/fighting. The bus was showing this beyond B-grade movie—not even a good bad movie—this guy kept getting violently shot over + over in slow motion, all the different angles. [pasted in a page of movie posters]. Meanwhile they forced his girlfriend to watch then plunged her head into the gorey wound. Nice.
I plugged into the Cocteau Twins + read almost the whole night, finishing the last page of The Odyssey as we pulled into Jakarta bus terminal. + what a mess that was ... busses everywhere. I couldn't figure out where i was or how to even exit, so i just took a cab right to the Pelni office. It was 6:30 AM but it didn't open til 8. I wandered around trying to cross 8 lane bustling streets w/ my backpack trying to find a place to change money to buy the ferry ticket. Went back + was accosted by this guy in broken English "what is your religion? How about Iraq?" I was seriously getting annoyed. I said that i thought all the soldiers + world leaders could go fuck themselves in a big orgy. He of course didn't understand + asked me to elaborate. So i explained that we'd better off if the opposing soldiers just got out of their tanks + busted open some beer + had a party. To my surprise he agreed. The 1st opinion i have heard. It ended up he was Christian (his name was John) + he wanted very badly to go to America. He kept warning me (along w/ a few others that had gathered) to watch myself, that lots of tourists get robbed here.
The line opened up. I got in the Rinjani line. This guy kept pushing into me unnecessarily close. Immediately a cop came up + checked to make sure the guy wasn't up to anything. Stood right in front of him + told him to back off. A personal bodyguard, what service! + if that wasn't enough, they gave me the V.I.P. treatment—took my passport back into the office + let me bypass the line, wrote me out a ticket while the cop stood watch. I did feel a bit ridiculous. Guess not a lot of westerners take this boat. Then i went to Jalan Jaksa ... experienced a new form of transport, the Bajaj—a 2-stroke 3 wheel gold cart like thing ... similar to a dokar, but it only holds 1 or maybe 2 people. Checked into this place surrounded by barbed wire fences, felt like Folsom Prison. The only other tourists here seemed to be in transit + look burned out.
I went down to Hotel Indonesia to change my Medang —> Penang date. Jakarta is a 3rd world Los Angeles ... huge motorways, skyscrapers, dirt, smog, no sidewalks, you have to walk right on the road. Came across this ultra modern shopping mall. I could've been in Beverly Hills for all i knew, this huge air-conditioned space, spic + span. Complete w/ Burger King, CD stores, high tech electronics + high fashion clothing. Fashion victims strolled about staring at me in my dirty worn shorts + holey tie-dye T-Shirt. Then i cruised on up to the American Embassy to pay Jed a visit, + that was an experience—really high security. They searched me + searched all the carts going in w/ special mirrors. Then another security check point, metal detector, no cameras, tape-recorders, etc. This typical-looking southern Marine said Jed wasn't there but gave me his address + number. I tried to call but it was busy. The whole scene was making me nervous so i left.
I went to find Taman Ismail Marzuk's cultural center ... it was way out in the bad part of town. It was twilight, getting dark + the power was out. I kept walking forever. Finally i found it but it was a big load of shit, a stupid planetarium + a movie theatre w/ B-grade flix. Escaped in a Bajaj to the Satay house where had cuttlefish grilled in these incredible spicy peppers, a Guiness stout, neopolitan ice cream + an espresso. [followed by another i Ching consulation ...]
somewhere in the Bangka straits—JAN 5 [bolded cuz our father's birth/death day]
Back on the sea of death, the endless blue ... the course is not mine to choose, i'm at the mercy of the captain. We are in, on our own world ... i've explored every deck, reached the limits. Just sky + the ocean beyond the rails. 1 can't be bored cuz 1 have no choices ... + besides i have the Adventures of Huck Finn ... couldn't think of a more appropriate book, been saving it for this moment + only hope it will last for these 3 days + 2 nights. I'm glad i left the living hell of Jakarta in our wake. Definitely the most disgusting city i've ever been ... diesel smog, open sewers, garbage piled high, mangy crippled cats ... + the stench almost liquid, thick + putrid + humid ... torrents of grey-brown bubbling liquid flowing next to the sidewalks, intermingled w/ gross food carts. What a poor condition of humanity. + the harbor was a thick brown milkshake cluttered w/ garbage .. not even recognizable as the ocean.
But this is all behind me now... except for the fact that my destination is another big smelly city—Medan—with supposedly no redeeming features, except for the fact that Bakit Luang is 4 or 5 hours away from there. That's 3 days of travel just to see Orangutans in the wild, or in a natural reserve. Probably no different than the zoo, maybe i'm better of going straight to the airport + straight to Penang? I could be there Jan 7 + in Bangkok Jan 9.
circa the equator—Jan 6
... on the "Love Boat, exciting + new.. come aboard we're expecting you." Yeah, right, some love boat ... entertaining none-the-less. Especially come mealtime, rice + fish-heads + chili sauce for lunch, rice + fish-heads + chili sauce for dinner ... the only reprieve is that they replace the fish-head w/ 1 egg for breakfast. Sharing a table 6 others, loads of fun. Their manners are so atrocious i fit right in, grabbing across the table to get something, not even waiting for everyone to sit down to begin eating, smacking lips, then washing hands by pouring water over them from their drinking glasses ... the grand finale, a chorus of belches ... even the dainty ladies let out some humdingers. Then they throw napkins down + jump up. All in 3 minutes time. Then begins the clove-smoking.
One time i was sat down across from this Christian w/ a big gold cross around her neck who was saying her prayers. So i thought i should wait ... but these Muslims came along w/ heads covered + all dug right in. They asked where i was from (none of them spoke english) ... AmericAAA—the Christian smiled really big. Then they started talking about me behind my back, from what i could pick up they were saying i probably liked bread + not rice, so i said "nasi bagus!" at which point they burst into hysterics, quite impressed i understood. The Muslim + Christian women got along just fine, like old pals, making fun w/ me.
Then at lunch i sat w/ this guy who started calling me Mr. America + when i didn't eat the chicken (yes, finally got something different). "Do you only eat American chicken?" No, i don't eat any chicken. + they sure have no qualms about coming right out w/ it, typical line of questioning: "where are you from? ... How old are you? ... What is your religion? ... How much money do you make? ... Are you a virgin?" I've learned the value of belum (not yet), if you say you're not married or have no kids they feel sorry for you, it's like saying you never intend to. Belum this, belum that. Not married yet, i don't believe in god yet... etc. Met this guy Usman who claims he's Muslim but he's a Kumudiyitt (sp?) Muslim ... they believe that Jesus is a prophet (and that he died in Kashmir, Pakistan, + is buried there!) as well as Moses, Mohammed, Buddha. The whole lot of them. Sorta like Bah'ai. + they think there are plenty more to come, in fact his name—Usman—is the name of the next predicted 1 to come .. imagine that! So i met a potential prophet.
We're spitting distance from Singapore ... i wish i could just jump ship here. + we just crossed the equator, i could tell cuz there was a line where the sea was boiling, haha. + i finished Huck Finn ... what an excellent book. Made me laugh, made me cry, rolling around on the deck, people thought me strange i'm sure. A most clever + humorous yarn. Meanwhile the captain + workmen were running around w/ life-vests on ... a man (who was laughing) on a stretcher + the sirens were blaring ... i couldn't figure out what was going on as it was all in Indonesian. [pic of ship] + wandering about the 8 decks—100s of conversations "how about Indonesian women?" Now there's a loaded question, they take offense either way. "I appreciate their beauty but i myself am not attracted to them." + Singapore—in the distance! 100s of ships going into her, no trees, just a big island covered w/ skyscrapers.
Some guy comes up + asks "how about the weather?" + feel like pretending i don't speak english or bahasa, to tell them to just leave me along, but ends up the guy was just in Australia doing post-graduate work in physics, in photo-electric cells [a field i was interested in at the time]. Stimulating conversation at least. He told me how they have cells now that are 25% efficient. + what's good is that when he finished his post-doc he came back to Indonesia to teach (rather than get a much higher paying job in Oz or the U.S. like most others). Was it just yesterday i was convinced i was gonna go home to study physics? Particularly solar energy? Especially after witnessing the mess of Jakarta, the world needs cleaner + more sustainable energy. I'll go home in march + apply to Bezerkely or something.
[My entertainment was this uptight Swiss couple who refused to put their bags ...] (which were covered w/ padlocks) up on the roof. Instead they sad on them in the aisle + old ladies had to awkwardly crawl over them + they were creating quite a nuisance but they refused to budge + would freak out if anyone touched their bags. Switched busses somewhere along the way—it was very rainy + all the windows were closed ... steamy + smokey + suffocating.
At sunset we pulled into Duaparat—the big resort for Medan. Hopped another ferry + rose in the dark to Sanosir island. Lake Toba is beautiful, deep + dark ... + big, the largest lake in SE Asia. It was rougher than the ocean was. The effect of crossing in the dark was intense. The boat went door to door ... i hadn't the faintest idea where i was going so i took the recommendation of some German couple. As we exited the boat, i looked at this girl thinking "this looks like the kind of girl who would lose her balance w/ her pack + fall in the lake (she was staggering precariously) so i lent a hand + got ready to catch her if she fell. She made it to the bank safely. But then she tripped + fell backwards + i caught her before she fell into the lake.
As i expected, this is nothing but 1 of those traveller's homes away from home—the kind that plays Bob Marley + every 1 sits around playing backgammon. Not that there is anything wrong w/ Bob Marley ... or at least there didn't use to be until you hear him over + over all over the world in places like this. We entered this large communal room—Bob Marley playing, Europeans playing backgammon or reading Lonely Planet guidebooks ... + everyone was getting stoned, German hippies. For some reason Germans make terrible hippies, these were like new age mid-life crisis reborn anal-retentive types trying to let loose, acting like they were stoned for the 1st time. This woman who runs the place asked them politely to not smoke in there [and that the police had busted them twice, but they ignored her.]
[I had to take an excrutiating piss the whole time] + had the seat right near the window where the sun was beating down, but no ventilation. Another curious habit these Bataks have is they like to call you John ... just like Navajos, they call all white people John. "Hora John! Hora John!" emanated from the side of the road, doppler-shifted. We passed lots of Batak architecture—incredible stuff, huge towers casually placed, + then another bus to Brastagi. Got a room then had this incredible meal of "Islamic food." Then had a walk around.
All of Sumatra smells like 1 big durian. They are durian freaks. It's a phenomena, particularly w/ men. There will be these huge piles on the side of the road w/ men squatting around in a circle eating them. They seem to take durian-eating quite seriously. Being that they smell so bad, probably necessitates them being eaten on the streets. These piles of durians are the equivalent to our bars.
[Pretty soon there was over ...] a ½-dozen of us squatting around. I felt distinctly like a primate. There's no getting around making a big mess of yourself. Hands covered w/ this stinky white goo, as well as lips + face. But there's a special rag laying on the pile just for this purpose. I ate the whole damn thing. As an afterthought, i definitely think durian tops garlic in potent strength ... i can still taste it. I can smell it coming from my throat even after i brushed my teeth + ate a bunch of cough drops. Oh dear! [some image of brass sculptures + black velvet painting of bamboo + a watercolor]
Medan, Sumatra Jan 10
Last day in Indonesia ... crash + burn. Brastagi had a distinct 70s quality to it. I walked around the market. Seems like it had a tourist boom in the 70s + since then nothing has happened. A certain timelessness. Saw ordinary men doing numerology on the streets ... staring at me in a daze.
Caught the bus to Bukit Lawang. 8 fucking hours on the bus to hell. Sat next to this Norwegian girl Britt who helped pass the time away. Stopped in Binjai + had a 3 course meal served in a banana leaf + tea for 350 rp (less than 20¢). Damn good + spicy too. I've had this shitty head cold for 3-4 days now + it's getting worse. All the smog + cigarettes going thru Medan surely doesn't make it better. Then another bus Binjai—> Bukit [pasted in 70s B+W photos] ... some feisty lady was sitting behind me, kept sliding the window so it would open for her (but closing it for me). I kept sliding it so it would be ½ + ½ but she would shut my part. It was the only window in the middle + she was sitting near the door anyway. "Hey lady get a clue + look at the panas on my brow! We tourists are not used to this shit." She only laughed + slid it back. + she's got a pig or some beast under the seat that keeps kicking + bucking, pushing the whole seat up under me. "Hey lady, i don't know what you have under the seat—apa?" She laughs w/ a look of innocence + shrugs her cold shoulder. I turn back around + the beast starts bucking + squealing like mad. My head slamming against the ceiling. She slides the window shut. I slide it open + try to maneuver so i can at least find out what's under the seat ... never did find out. Patience is a virtue.
Hour after hour, motionless. Happy when we got a flat tire cuz at least we got to get out to stretch. Everybody has sweat marks on their asses + back as if the seats had wet paint on them. We fly down dirt ruts in circles, i can't see a thing. When you forget where you are + stop caring is when you arrive. Bukit Lawang is this incredibly funky village in the middle of Sumatran rainforests .. hugging this big river w/ rickety bamboo bridges. We got out + walked on this trail 1 km to "Green Paradise" ... they only had 1 room (w/ 1 small bed) so Britt + i had to share it. All these Sumatran trendy guides were smoking pot + playing Bob Marley on their guitars, w/ these strange hippies, 1 of them was wearing a porcupine quill necklace.
I tried to take a bath in the river, but was swept away + dragged over rocks thru the rapids. It was so much fun i walked up + did it again. I woke up (spooning on the bed w/ this strange girl i barely knew) miserable + cold. She was hogging all the blanket + my nose was clogged + my throat was sore. Britt lay peacefully sleeping w/ the blanket wrapped around her. I just lay there all night in fetal position, wrapped in my sarong, trying to snuggle close to Britt but not too close. Fireflies dotted the ceiling. The river was [...really loud. Finally got up at 6:30 ... ]
[.. and the down stream current pushes it side ways across the river ..]
Then we gave our passports to this other guy. A group gathered ... talked to this woman from Berkeley, typical. Then we walked up to this hill to a platform where they had milk + bananas. Then these orangutans slowly came 1 by 1 ... swinging in the trees above. An awesome sight—these big beasts w/ flaming red hair. This 1 swung about 5 feet over my head. They drank milk out of a cup, w/ good manners, waiting until the cup was handed to them. Their facial gestures were incredibly complex, even moreso than ours ... + those eyes! They radiate intelligence + compassion. There were 2 mothers + babies, a grandaddy w/ a beard + this juvenile who wouldn't go away. They did a good job feeding them, you could tell the rangers were well-trained. They acted casually indifferent to the orangutans. When they wanted to play the men would ignore them, + gently push them away when they'd had their share of food (they were being "rehabilitated" after all). The actions + gestures were incredibly complex—from submission to being goofy or lounging around imitating + observing the humans. Must be strange for them, do they wonder why we are feeding them?
Left our cousins after an hour or so + got some porridge + played chess w/ this Indonesian guy who whipped my ass. Then on to back track the miserable ride i just did the previous afternoon ... all this to see orangutans for 1 hour. 4 days in Sumatra, 4 days on busses of minimum of 6 hours each. I must be a masochist cuz i actually enjoy these rides. But today did me in. I was squished between 2 chain smokers. No ventilation, my headcold getting worse .. sneezing + wheezing, my throat raw as hell. The guys were smoking cigarettes wrapped in corn husks .. on + on ... crossed a river on a platform between 2 canoes, 1 car at a time (along w/ chicken carts + motorized sidecar becaks that look like Harleys).
Switched busses in [Biniju?] approaching Medan. The smog was killing me. Tried to find a cheap hotel ... 20,000 rp. looked + looked ... finally found 1 in a construction area, streets all dug up. They greeted me like they hadn't had a guest in ages. I was shown this room for 10,000 rp ... whatever, i'll take it. Sign in + all + then he asks if i want a massage. Some girl (obviously a prostitute) introduces herself, "Betty" ... tries to make small talk. I make a hastey retreat to my room. I ask myself, "what the fuck am i doing here?" Sick + miserable, i will be spending the next 20 hours in this here rom as there is jack shit to do in Medan + i need to rest up. I look into my room, a filthy pig sty, crusty cum-stained sheets, a moldy thick smell, no ventilation + no shower. The water tank is a gray scummy froth, disgusting + small. A shit covered hole in the ground as a toilet. I deserve better than this.
So i say fuck this i am leaving. Walk past the room next door .. Betty is laying there in bed w/ a ½ naked Sumatran business man, the door wide open. The clerk speaks no english, i tell him the room is disgusting + a rip-off + he wants me to pay a 5,000 rp "cancellation fee" ... so i ask to see the manager, he's at home + he'll be pissed if he sees your name in the book + asks me where the money is. I look at the book ... the last entry before me is dated Sept 29! "You mean to tell me you haven't had a guest in 3 months? This is a fucking brothel, not a hotel. What will you do if i just walk out. These 3 guys were getting really upset, threatened to follow me to the bank when i told them i didn't have 5000 anyway. So i gave them 1000 for their troubles + went to the rand hotel ... 20,000 but well worth it. Especially w/ this flu. In steamy Sumatra. Where's my pozole? + my cayenne tea?
Georgetown, Penang [Malaysia]—Jan 11 
That shithole of Medan seems a long ways away. Woke up, had my last meal of curried leaves + rice then tried to find a place to change money ... big hassle. Banks wouldn't do it, this 1 travel agent would for 1700, said i wouldn't find a better rate. I walked around the corner + changed it for 1880. Paid my bill, took a motorized side car becak to the airport (quite an experience!) + paid airport tax—exhausting my funds down to the last rupee. Exactly.
Waited in the smokey terminal, a quick hop (40 min) over the Malacca straits, the pressure made my sinus cavities crackle + my head felt like it was in a vice. Malaysia is incredibly different already. First of all, we weren't accosted by becak + taxi drivers. We had to hunt them down. Shared a taxi w/ these 2 other girls. Organized roads that actually had a line down the middle. Air conditioning. Sterile + mellow, but after Sumatra, this was what i needed. Especially w/ my cold. Went to Chulia st, Georgetown. Eng Aun hotel ... no rooms so i got a bed. Prices aren't bad here, but not as good as Indonesia. Went to the CPO. Got letters from S, J, D, Mom + D (from Rarotonga)! ... + my credit card. Then i checked out some travel agents, contemplating my ticket home. They got these bucket shops here w/ cheap tickets. Can fly back thru Manila, Honolulu for $420. If i fly back from India it's like $900. Figured w/ that extra $500 i can always fly back + pick up where i left off. 1. February is too cold to trek in Nepal. 2. I don't have proper stuff for trekking. 3. I talked to this girl who just [came back from India + they are having all sorts of political problems ...]
[Yes, Bhuttan is now open to tourism and is the new place to trek]. So now tentative itinerary is something like:
The one thing to consider is to be at the Batu caves for the Thaip sum Hindu festival which is sometime around Mid-Jan ... i have to find out (alternative to India!).
Penang (Malaysia) is complex ... at times it's China, at times India ... + then its own Malaysia ... + then it can be the modern high-tech Singapore. The food is superb. I spelt all afternoon waiting to be hungry again so i could try something new. Food stalls all over the streets. Buddhist temples, Hindu temples, fundamental Muslims...... a veritable hodge-podge of culture. All the signs are in Chinese (Mandarin), Hindi, Arabic. Malay + English. English seems to be common cuz it favors a certain race of clientele. I went to this 5 story mall ... dept stores w/ everything you'd find in America (for cheaper). ... from China, India, Japan, Singapore, etc. for incredibly cheap. Even got a INTL Herald tribune so i could catch up on news. Scary 4 more days. Airline tickets are expected to increase 25%. They've already increased 50% since last July... Another reason why i should get my ticket before Jan 15, back to the U.S. ... Penang has the cheapest air tickets in the world. + i'm just sort of burnt out on travelling + running out of money. [.. more ranting about financial matters w/ estimates of how much money i'd need + how much i'd spent..] A most depressing situation. Where does all the money go? 1. books 2. postage 3. coffee + snacks (especially in NZ + OZ) shit i dont know where. [followed by photo of royal Penang family.]
All i do is eat in this place + walk around ... developed my film ... fucking depressing, the past three rolls were underexposed. (100 film + the switch was at 800). Shit, I feel like just going home now. Went to this museum, it was OK. Walked down on this rickety pier over a very polluted bay w/ funky houses. Markets everywhere ... but nothing inspires me much.
Waiting for Silvercon travel to get my ticket. Eating Laksa Roty, Mutabaraka, banana pancakes. Coffee as rich as Guinness beer. Been reading Bonfire of the Vanities, wandering around looking at temples. Street people covered w/ filth. This one guy on the main drag laying in the same place every day, all day long, completely naked + not budging. I thought he was dead but yesterday i walked by + he was definitely "up" .... he was laying there spread eagle w/ his head back masturbating for the whole world to see. Right in the middle of a busy sidewalk + no one even blinked.
Went to the train station w/ the intent of getting a ticket to Bangkok, but they were booked, so i figured it was a sign + walked away w/ a ticket to Singapore instead. [ .. more collaged images ..]
Beep beep .... beep beep ... beep beep... my eyes stinging red. 5 a.m. Didn't get to bed until 4 a.m. Finished Bonfire of the Vanities, then started Death in Venice ... Thomas Mann. I thought i wasn't tired cuz of the book so i kept reading til 1 a.m. + finished it. Turned off the light + laid in the dark. The ceiling fan went round + round + stirred the air. I felt perfect ... but i wasn't tired. The ceiling fan whirring, gently. 2 a.m. Vivid images of stagnant choleric waters smelling of disease.
[... + remember as if it was yesterday, taking a shower..] w/ her... or when Zorro chewed that kids arms off + the maid poured boiling water on him ... or flying off the curb on my bigwheel + having my head split open ... Dad coming + telling me we were going to Disneyland but the plane landed in Texas + he told me to draw pink elephants to distract me + i was sick in a barf bag ...[.. more childhood memories .. digressing into a draft of a book we were divising at the time...] .. the time we were watching TV late + dad brought some old friend over + he was very drunk leaning against the TV + almost pulled it to the ground if i hadn't jumped up to save it. The time i was on the bus at Whitford + mom came on the bus + pulled me off + said we were going to Mexico while all my friends stared on .. a few pages of such reminiscing .. ] .. Walking into the garage, the smell, the dashboard + why did it have blood on it ... checking the mail + finding a letter from me in the mailbox ... + on + on. Or maybe it would end there, simultaneously w/ the culmination of my trip? If only i had a reason, writing a book is a do or die situation, you don't just write one for the hell of it.
So anyway, it was 6 a.m. i had to wake up the guard to get out cuz it was still dark. There were rats all over the place scampering back to the sewer. The city—a giant organism—the rats it's nerve cells ... living the from the sewer ... the life line, a whole nother life. I walked on past sleepy becak drivers jumping up + rubbing their eyes ... "becak?" to which i'd say "jalan-jalan." (just walking).
Waited for the ferry, crossed the channel as the moon lit the clouds an iridescent blue + the sun just rising + now i'm on this train + once again i'm happy to be in motion. I can hear the screeching of the rails. .... a continuous hum, the soundtrack of life. The blurred long grass close at hand fading to more stable rice fields ... orderly coconut plantations + then over this beautiful swamp ... right at water level.
There were plenty of tourists waiting for the train, but i'm the only 1 in 3rd class. For that matter there's not many Chinese in this car ... + this is the equivalent of 1st class in Indonesia. Had as much as 2nd + i'd much rather be here w/ the open windows than stuffy stale air-con mixed w/ cigarettes. Some one opened a durian in here + boy does it reek..."ok, who cut the durian!?" People glance around but don't want to stare down the guilty party. There's a baby crying but i can only hear it in between Bad Brains. We just stopped + many large men w/ beards + turbans came got on w/ their wives covered head to toe. This guy's reading a paper across form in Chinese ... pictures of fighter planes in the desert. Are we at war yet? Muslims giving me dirty looks, as if i am responsible. It all seems so far away... the train goes on.
Thru the jungles of Malaysia. Mangroves (or bunyans?) line the side. The humming of the rails. I think that's why i like trains so much because of the sound. Clickety clack, screechh .. the doppler dinging of the RR Xing. Red flashing lights, guys on mopeds waiting. Wood houses on stilts w/ tin roofs. Suddenly a bridge, a wall of metal, gone as fast as it came + wow! Look at the river. Under my feet flowing perpendicular. + this train carries life. Sure it's carrying all the metal + seats + baggage but my eyes are on here. I'm in the train reference frame. Relativity. A falling coconut has a different velocity vector than that barefooted kid in the sugarcanes. + those birds. + yet another station, some people got off, others got on. Another chapter, another city, another journal entry + another journal. Another ½ lb to send home to age like wine ... for the pages to turn brittle yellow, to become nostalgia 1 day ... a nostalgic yearning i yearn for now. Send it home from S'pore ... a package for me? Moi? How exciting ... the longest fucking letter i've ever gotten. + Derek, get your ass in gear + apply to grad school + get a job to make money so you can do this again ... cuz whether you forgot or not, this is a lot of fun. Got it? And don't forget where you are going + where you come from because it completes the present picture of reality (clickety click ... screech, swish, purr) softly as we roll in the station.
[.. if my memory serves me, the rest of the ride wasn't so smooth .. the train broke down in the middle of Malaysia .. the next day when i got to Singapore the gulf war officially broke out .. travel warnings were issued for Bangkok where i had a train ticket for ... not that i cared, but i was tired of travelling + it all seemed so pointless during wartime. But this is all in another journel which i have yet to transcribe .. ]
[after this on the back page i listed all the books i read:]
The Pumphouse Gang by Tom Wolfe (Dec 12)
Among the Believers by V.S. Naipaul (Dec 19)
Island of Bali by Miguel Covarrubias (Dec 25)
Death is a Lonely Business by Ray Bradbury (Dec 26)
Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse (Dec 28)
Hinduism by K.M. Sen (Dec 30)
The Odyssey by Homer (Jan 4)
Huckleberry Finn (Adventures of) by Mark Twain
A Zoo in My Luggage by Gerald Durrell (Jan 10)
Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe (Jan 15)
Death in Venice by Thomas Mann (Jan 5)
[followed by ...]
|> 405 > Jetty jank + street art gimickry of Georgetown (Penang)|