Thankful to be out of Jakarta, a conurbation of high rises, more malls than one can handle, modern hotels and not much else to see. Yesterday we left Jakarta and headed for Cianjur, a small city in the province of West Java to experience some authentic culture and the local lifestyle of the Sundanese people. The infinite bus rides to the main bus station and then catching another bus headed directly to Cianjur (pronounced: Chia-n-joor) left us both tired and in desperate need of rest. Indonesians will try to sell you anything and everything from the moment you sit on the bus. With vendors throwing wallets in my husband's lap to kids books being flaunted in our faces, we held our ground and only bought nothing more than some grapes for the "not to be ever mentioned again" bus ride. After a long 9 hours, we arrived in Cianjur and headed for our homestay with a man named Yudi who has opened his home to fellow travelers and offers the opportunity to live with the locals and experience their way of living (http://www.cianjuradventure.com/). We slept from 4:30pm till the call of the azaan at 5am.
This morning on the other hand had a pleasant start. As Shawn savoured a nice cup of Java coffee which is about $300/lb in the U.S but quite inexpensive in Indonesia, I quickly inhaled the locally grown warm tea brought to us by Yudi. For breakfast we enjoyed a bowl of warm rice pudding with crackers on top, locally referred to as Bubur. Although the time was just 6am, the discussion between Yudi and us was quite interesting, and Yudi told us about his book "The Secret Behind the Secret" which talks about how to attain happiness from within rather than seeking it in a materialistic sense. It's always enlightening to hear what one considers happiness, especially from people of different cultures. Now fully feuled we were ready for some sightseeing. One of Yudi's workers' named Andre took us for a pleasant walk through the town. Rice paddies and plenty of friendly smiles and hand waves were seen on the way. We stopped at a rice factory and had a chance to see the steps needed to produce rice and get it ready for the market. After a few hours of trekking the hills of Cianjur, we returned to a home-cooked lunch that included rice, some greens similiar to seaweed, fish, potato patties, and topped off with papaya and pineapple.
For the remaining of the day, Andre and Ega who's another one of Yudi's workers took us for a sweet ride on their motor bikes to see the floating village nearby. These are homes that have been constructed on the water after the government made a damn. The people who live there mostly make their living by having fish farms and sell those to local restaurants. Note: we plan to not eat the fish from the floating village as we uncovered while speaking with Ega that the toilets in the homes...ahh well I think the rest you can figure out. Alligator fish, piranhas, and coys are some of the fish found their. Next we stopped to view the rubber trees as Ega tried to take some of the wet rubber from the tree and mend his soon-to-be-let-go slippers. We headed back to Yudi's place after making a few stops at the local markets for some papaya and dinner-to-go. As we pulled into Yudi's place, an ice-cream truck sounding music attracted us but only to realize that it was a fully clothed monkey riding a miniature motor bike...huh?...that's right, a form of local amusement as local kids watch a monkey perform various stunts as instructed by his master. I'd hate to be in his shoes...
Shawn headed for prayer in the mosque and had the pleasure to meet locals who were quite interested in learning more once finding out a Muslim American had just arrived in their local mosque. Dinner is served with some condensed rice cubes that partially looked like potatoes in a delicious coconut curry. Indonesians have some amazing services provided
to them. Don't feel like cooking tonight?...no problem, just ask the local vendor who has a stove and all encompassing ingredients to head to your home and cook on your premises in his handy-dandy little mobile kitchen. Yudi orders vegetable noodles and 3 minutes later ready to be devoured. We helped of course..
Side note, we're a hit with the kids due to our "western" nose. Indonesians, like many Asian cultures are infatuated with caucasian features and women will often bleach their skin to look white.
Lesson learned: Never travel right when schools are about to open or locals are returning from holiday unless you enjoy punishing yourself.