There's not much I can write about Yogyakarta; the first half I was still recovering from Bali/Belly, by the time I got to Prambanan, a Hindu answer to Borobudur, I was again annoyed by tourism. I dare not undermine the cultural importance and the aesthetic magnificence of these millennium-old architectures (as you see above), it's the endless display of modern narcissism and/or constant hunger for attention that makes me wanna kill. Day 2, after I got through Borobudur and then my toilet run, my mind started going like #HAL and I had to sit staring at the ground for good 15min trying to remain conscious, then decided to bail. The Following signs and arrows for keluar the exit, I was led into a maze with walls of souvenir shops with no end in sight. Every corner I turned I found myself in the exact same fucking view, reminiscent of the dungeons in (insert an old-school RPG here) and the locals walking up to me with arts and crafts in hands like zombies. My brain capacity reduced my vision to about 16bit resolution, and I desperately need a potion. I managed to get out, and seeked the nearest establishment where they serve soup. Need to rehydrate. Now.
The cafe I ended up at had exactly that, with a little more fat in broth and a calming view of rice patties both of which did the trick, plus the side of yet another off-key chant from a nearby mosque which added a quiet comic relief. Nice to know that not every Muslim pastor can nail the micro-tonal intricacies, but I'd also have to question why they have to give a microphone to those who obviously cannot sing. Nuri, a shy painter and a Jogja native, told me about the time her family used to make fun of these not-so-musically-inclined faithfuls which reminded me of my family doing the same for the Buddhist ministers at funerals, muttering "Poor Jr didn't get the voice of his dad etc." A much humanized look on Muslim culture has been a nice breeze in this radicalized and divisive climate we live in. Girls sticking their cellphones between their ear and hijab chatting with friends hands-free, chillin' at a total hipster coffeeshop with their male counterparts, or hijab being a part of their fashion statement as displayed at massive shopping malls that I visited in Jakarta - none surprising, just a reassuring outlook tha twe in the US oughta already be familiar with.
Jakarta feels more secular than Bali, and of course WAY more capitalist. Most familiar brands are present with some Japanese ones mixed in (such as HokBen, a nostalgic bento box stands that I used to frequent back in school), and much more sanitation provided on all aspects of life which was a much-appreciated change. It's essentially another metropolis with all modern amenities including one that's very distinctive; GO-JEK. With the level of congestion equal to what I saw in HCMC, moving around can be more time-consuming than you'd expect from the actual stance you travel. GO-JEK, a motorbike Uber fits naturally in this environment (four-wheel service is also offered) but they take this further; they become your runner. They'll get you food from any food stand on the street, rolls of TP or your meds from Alfamart, pick up your shipment then drop it off at DHS, come give you a massage and so on. Too bad this cannot be adopted to Los Angeles because the drivers are too fucking dumb and entitlement-filled to check their side mirrors when making a right.
Wish I had arrived in Jakarta earlier (and not gotten a long layover in Singapore the next day) is where I stand honestly. The 8hr train ride was a bit redundant of what I had already seen a lot in Bali/Jogja on the motor, and the seat was pretty rough. The commuter train was Tokyo-packed with way less stops and taxing than I wanted it to be. Upon arriving at Mayumi and Ken's gorgeous residence in which I was greeted by homemade oyakodon, having gone thorough all the ups/downs of Bali and Jogja, I got teary with the level of comfort and the hospitality I felt. And again, the fortune of having solid people like these two in life cannot be understated. I always wanna explore and on the move, but some conversations are just too priceless to replace with "sightseeing" or the third and the biggest endless pool I've been in before anyone put their foot in, which I enjoyed thoroughly.
Or Bakso, one of the best bowls of noodle soup I've had since I don't remember when, delivered by none other than GO-JEK from Pondok Bakso which I failed to photograph after we put them together ourselves. The word refers to meatballs, and as far as I can tell they come in different serving styles but noodle soup being the most popular. It has two layers; the outer shell made from minced beef probably boiled, then on the inside they put seasoned chicken pieces for texture contrast. Where it gets real, however, is the hot sauce you mix in with the broth - Mayumi tastes it for a bit and goes up in flames. I laugh, but once I start taking a whack at it myself, I'm right there with her burning up. This is one of the spiciest things that I ever put in my mouth, and we only put half of what they gave us. With the best spicy food, though, the heat is only to enhance the actual flavor and not overpower, and it's pretty amazing that the taste is able to cut through this much heat drawing me back into wanting more. The soup is luring me into the fire, or rather, grabbing my neck and pulling me into it almost violently. CAN'T. STOP. Although enjoying in the modern comfort of AC, the heat is giving you an illusion of sitting at a street stalls while cars and motors passing by behind you. I'd be lying if I didn't fantasize about the experience of it, but the fantasy or the romanticism of travel is not driving me anymore; gotten that out of my system already, I'd rather let things happen organically.
When Ken asked if I had been backpacking, upon facing my unshaven, tanned, rather exhausted look, I had to stop and wonder what it is that I've been doing. People ask me or assume that I'm on a vacation. Business-or-pleasure question is easier to answer cause I can just say both, but is this a vacation? Certainly so from my colleagues' perspectives since I'm not "working." It definitely didn't feel that way in Sukawati with my daily lesson, but maybe a little in Candidasa, and here in Jakarta as well. But as a whole, this entire Southeast Asian AND my Central European expedition, what am I doing? What is so different about the trip I'm taking from an Aussie surfer seeking that perfect wave (nah), or a middle-age LA divorcée on a self exploration retreat (warmer), or David Lee Roth going undercover in the streets of Tokyo "scouting for a prospective apartment" (the budget and the status)? And why am I so feverishly writing about this?
Thanks, really, for reading though #blessed
Soundchaser/two-time Independent Music Awards finalist. New EP "Six Songs from Insomnia" is out on all major streaming platforms.