Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Jakarta To Cirebon
Waking up on the first morning in Jakarta, Indonesia was nostalgic.
It was like waking up young... like a child still living in my Lorong Ternak village when the still of the predawn hours broke by the call for morning prayer from the nearby mosque.
It was 4:30AM Indonesian time in Hotel Grand Cempaka.
Mom and Dad already awoke with the sound of water running in their toilet in the adjoining room. We went for breakfast at 7:00AM.
It was the first time I could see an aerial view of Jakarta from our 5th storey hotel room. Only then I realized how dense and well, disorderly cramped the city was. It was no wonder that traffic jams were the order of the day, everyday.
One heartening observation was that there were mosques almost every 100 metres apart, interspersed within the city with varied sizes buildings... distinctive, with its 3-tiered roof and a pointed dome right on the very top.
Although Indonesia is not a Muslim country, with over 300 native languages, the population is about 90% Muslims, thus finding Halal food was not at all a problem.
While the city outside woke-up to its usual bustling day, we had plenty of time enjoying our breakfast and each other's company. Mom was exceptionally chatty this morning.
Knowingly so, everyone was excited since it was our first day to embark on a 6-day journey of Central Java.
We checked-out before 8:00AM and was on the coach with our tour guide Pak Rizal waiting with a smile as everyone boarded. All smiling with zest to begin our Java Overland Tour.
As we headed further away east from the capital, the chaotic concrete and makeshift houses gave its landscape to the vast, unobstructed view of padi fields... as far as the eye could see. All serene with beautifully shades of green.
Lunch was at Pesona Laut Restaurant in Pantai Utara or north sea coastline. A seafood restaurant overlooking the ocean.
A quaint feature of the restaurant was a nostalgic ambin or seating platform where people had their meals on it while seated cross-legged. A true old kampong style.
The food served there was probably one of the best meals in the entire tour, simply because seafood is my favorite.
A visit to Sunan Gunung Jati Tomb. Our tour guide enlightened us on 1 of the 9 men they called Wali or the holiest men in Java. He united the Indonesian people in Jakarta that soon spread wide the neighboring provinces to embrace Islam from their centuries-old practice of Hinduism.
Before his death, he requested that his grave be cordoned-off in anticipation to avoid skewing of faith by worshiping him at his grave instead of The Almighty.
His grave was not open to public... not even dignitaries. It was believed that one had to pass through 6 more sealed doors excluding the outer thick timbre door that was padlocked to reach the inner sanctum where his grave was. The reason for the 7 doors was unknown.
Out of respect, no photos were taken within the tomb grounds.
It was just too crowded with local visitors pouring in to the courtyard to offer prayer to him, while the Chinese visitors visit Wali Jati's Chinese Wife's grave to offer her their prayers.
So, we cut short our visit there.
The highlight of palce was not so much about the tomb, but the ever persistent and aggressive nature of the children there begging for money. We were already warned by Pak Rizal of such a situation well before we reached alighted from our coach.
Each of us had children surrounding us; even Sonny was not spared... tagging along and tugging on our shirts asking for money. There were lots of shops there, but we could only get a reprieve once we were back on the coach. So, no opportunity for shopping there.
The visit conjured-up a very sad sight to many of us, but an embarrassing one for Pak Rizal. He was disgusted believing that the children were taught by their beggar-parents to lead such a life too, instead of an honest living, working in the fields.
A visit to Gua Sunyaragi. It was built as a rest house for royalty. Sunan Gunung Jati built it in the 15th century for his Chinese bride who died 3 years after coming to Java.
The isolated place was used for meditation to seek inner knowledge and strength for spiritual discipline within the many chambers. Outsidewas a landscaped garden where once small lakes meandered through the garden.
It must had been a beautiful place, but with the numerous transformations with its grotesque red brick building and concrete grotto, I could not help to feel that it had become more like a theme park than anything historic, unfortunately.
The journey to our hotel called Hotel Prima in Cirebon took us late into the afternoon.
Enough time to freshen-up after checking in and had our dinner at the hotel restaurant.
We did our own night tour of the city while my parents stayed back in their room.
Did some shopping for some unbelievably dirt-cheap T-shirts and jackets before we called it a night.