A starry journey

Filed in Indonesia (2005), Travel

(continued from "Imprisoned")

My plane arrived at Bali at around nine pm. Once through customs, I exited the airport terminal looking for any sign of Isah, our helper. She was going to meet me there. It didn't take long to find her. She was standing at the end of the lines of hotel people holding up signs advertising the names of the guests they were there to pick up.

It was great to see her and she looked as healthy and vibrant as ever, if only not as slim as she was when she worked for us. I guess walking ten dogs four times a day really keeps the weight off.

Isah wasn't alone. Accompanying her on the seven-hour "kijang" minibus journey from her home to the airport were her husband-to-be, her twelve-year-old son and one of her nieces; a really nice bunch of people.

Isah and I chatted as we walked over to the public toilets in the airport car park before getting in the minibus for our return trip. It was going to be a long ride home but we didn't care. Isah was the only one I could talk to. Nobody else in the group spoke English or Cantonese and I didn't speak any Indonesian or Java so communication was practically impossible. It didn't matter though. We still felt comfortable together.

Travelling was slow. For one thing, people don't drive nearly as fast in Indonesia as they do in Hong Kong or Australia. I guess we were averaging forty to fifty km per hour, even though the roads were almost empty. However, making our progress even slower, the driver had to stop the minibus every twenty minutes or so to refill the radiator which had apparently developed a leak during their trip that morning. Every time he opened the radiator, steam gurgled and poured out. We could see it even from inside the minibus, even against the dark night sky. Again, it didn't worry us. We knew we'd make it home and it just added something special to the trip, something to make it more memorable.

Two hours later, we stopped at a restaurant; my first exposure to Indonesian food and the Indonesian language. The walls and ceilings were painted white but old and dirty. Windows were large and usually open because the weather was warm. Geckos climbed around the ceilings looking for insects to eat.

People ate differently. They were eating with their right hands, using their fingers to pick up the rice and pick the meat out of the chicken wings. We drank Indonesian tea with huge chunks of white ice in it. And we rested for a bit. On the TV, several people were singing old English songs in silky Dean Martin style while many other people danced romantically in pairs on the floor in front of them. This was a TV show but it looked like a livecam coming from a dance club somewhere. I could now be absolutely sure that I was no longer in Hong Kong.

Leaving the Bali ferry port on our way to Java

We left the minibus downstairs and walked up to the deck to enjoy the cool breeze as the ferry left the Bali port on its way to the Java island.

For a 750x500 version, click here.

A couple of hours later, we drove onto a large ferry with several other buses, trucks and cars and took the ferry over the channel to Java on the other side. The ferry trip took around thirty minutes and while looking up at the clear starry sky; something we never see in Hong Kong because we have too many street lights; I suddenly noticed Mars shining down on us, shimmering brightly and slightly red. I had read about Mars' approach in an email sent to me a few weeks ago. The last time Mars was this close to Earth was apparently about seven thousand years ago. The next time it will be this close won't be for another fifty thousand years so I considered myself lucky to see it there so clearly and brilliantly in the Indonesian sky.

Several hours later, we finally arrived at Isah's home, way up in Java territory. It was around four am and there were still a few people on the streets. I soon learned that those people were not staying up late but rather were up early, getting ready for the day's work ahead of them; at four in the morning!

(continued in "Home")


Comments (Comments are closed)

9 Responses to “A starry journey”
  1. yinyin says:

    The lucky first! Mum is watching that Korean show “DA CHUNG JIN”, sick of it….Surfing on the net like a ship sailing without an aim. Checking out bit and pieces and found new updates….^_^
    Wow, I realized that you change the format of the site. Like the entries in the Travel category have a background of blue and a banner. Is the photo in the banner a photo u took during ur holiday? You crop it right? But this layout gives a very “holiday” feel.
    You seriously done lots of traveling on ur trip, hey just wondering don’t u get those car sick or plane sick? But sure a little bit of homesick. ^_^
    Why people drive so slow? 50Km/h is like nothing, wel compare to those crazy provisional license owners who have an average of 80km/h. Eating Indo food, cool! That must been great! From my knowledge HK is not a very diverse country right? Experiencing multiculturalism is great, you get 2 knoe all those different cultures and their custom. I think there is a old Chinese say about” 读万里书不如走万里路“, which I totally agree on. U agree?
    Hey I was wondering do u did some researches before u go to Indo? Coz hk is quite hot due to those global warming in fact the whole world is. But it is summer in Hk what about Indo? Indo is so close to the equator, those this mean that summer all the time.
    Okay, okay I realized that I ask so many questions…..
    Vanish be4 getting kil…… Cant wait to read the wedding.^_^
    Nway, Cya
    Regards 茵茵^_^

  2. Betty says:

    Also love your header picture, from your vacation perhaps? I always look forward to reading your blogs..makes the workday go by faster ;)

  3. 河國榮 says:

    hi 茵茵 and Betty,

    you people are observant. I created css style code just for the Indonesian trip which includes the photo banner. the cropped image comes from one of the photos I took during my trip. I'll show you the full photo later on in this series along with a few more from the 1000+ photos I took during the trip ;-)

  4. sapphire says:

    請問 banner 那張相是那裡的海灘呀?Bali, Java? 從相中看來就好像 Shangri-La 一樣美麗,好像甚麼事都無發生過。
    你在海灘上有無看見去年聖誕節那場 tsunami 留下來的小小可怕景像呀?

  5. 河國榮 says:


    apparently the areas that I went to were not affected by the 2005 tsunami. the photo in the top was taken from a beach area called Lampon.

  6. Sarah says:

    Hi Greg!
    Oh! You saw MARS Shining down! You lucky man! Should have taken the picture for us to view as well! lolz..

    Eating food with right hand.. yeah its the culture.. the Malays and Indian here in Malaysia do that too.. Sometimes I just wonder why can't they just use the spoon and fork. Must ask my malay friend about this!

  7. Ian says:

    Indonesia are very much like Malaysia.
    I meant their culture relatively are same with the malays here in Malaysia. Have you been to Malaysia before..?? By the way, i am from Malaysia.. ;)

  8. Alison says:

    Before u have enuf compliments, I wld like to praise the layout of your prose abt ur Indo trip as well. It's very nice.

    Looking fwd to ur articles abt the wedding and Indo coffee. I had Indo coffee before, but didn't really like it. Despite I am a great coffee fan... Ciao!

  9. sapphire says:

    你真是很幸運,剛剛從Bali 回來,那裡的旅遊區昨晚又有terrorist attack,死三十幾人,傷百幾人,其中很多都是外國遊客;再加上最近印尼又有bird flu 發生,你好彩走得快。除了要 ”還神” 之外,我提議你去買張 “金多寶 ” 試一試你的運氣。
    其實你未出發之前,我都覺得你很勇,連Bali 都敢去,不過為了免掃你的興緻,所以之前沒有說出來。