Monday 14 July 2014

Malaysia - Singapore - Java

The world cup is over, ramadan has started and we've changed our location several times in between. We have arrived at Bali for the moment, where we are currently trying to extend our visa to 60 days (at the airport you only get 30 days) and we can do some blog update.

Kuala Lumpur is a "huge shopping mall city", so this definitely a highlight where you can get everything you need and much more you'll never need (there is one shopping mall which even has a fully grown roller-coaster inside!) and the other big thing is the Petronas Towers. It is amazing to see them during the day, but it's even better if you see them at night! The Petronas Twin Tower tour is ok, but rather expensive for just having a look around... Another place that can be visited is a bird park where you can watch a lot of birds from all over the world (including emu and ostrich from Australia) but no penguins (it's about 30 degrees here, so not a penguin climate).

Twin Towers
Bird park
Twin towers @ night
After some days in KL, we took a bus to the cosy town of Melakka (another shopping mall town) which also has some historic sites and and nice old town. Since it is close to the sea, you get fresh sea food and they offer a cruise on the small river as well (pretty touristic but nice thought). And, how could it be different, they also have some huge shopping malls which attracts all the locals since they are air conditioned ;-) (shopping is btw. the national sport of Malaysia I think...). A special thing is the rickshaws they have in Melakka, they are very colourful and a must!

Mosque in Melakka
Smurph Rickshaw
River Cruise
So, after 2 days, we took another bus to Singapore. Singapore custom control is a funny thing. Since we entered Singapore from Malaysia, they have different restrictions on what you have to declare on customs. We had a bottle of wine (bought in Nepal with the leftover money) with us, but we did not think of this being a problem... well, it is! Since we did not declare it, it would have been "smuggling of goods" which normally would have costed a fine of 10 times the fee of the VAT tax. So, we should have paid about 95 S$ for a bottle of wine which costed about 20 US$ ...?! Luckily, we could convince them that we did not know this rule, so we got away with a warning, but we had to pay the 9.50 S$ fee VAT... welcome to Singapore!
The city is similar to KL, but it has a F1 track and it has a harbour area which is amazing (and yes, it also has huge and expensive shopping centres!). After the devastating Swiss game in the night (3 am - 5 am) and a short night, we visited some sights in town including the waterfront (amazing) and due to our arrival, the armed forces held a parade (just for us!), including helicopters and a firework! Since it is a very international city, food is great and we spent our last dinner in a Brazilian restaurant (called: carnivore; serving meat!) before we took of to Yogyakarta (Indonesia).

Singapore @ night
Singapore sunset
This time, the migration and the custom went smoothly, so we could enter Indonesia and we headed to our home stay with a taxi. In comparison to KL and Singapore, Indonesia is completely different, especially the traffic with all the motor bikes! We stayed in a house close to the Kraton (Palace of the sultan) from where we could easily walk to all places of interest. Besides the Kraton, we visited a puppet factory (unplanned). Some guy "offered" to show us the way to the entrance of the Kraton but since it was "too early" he showed us firstly the puppet factory (and disappeared after!). After seeing the process, we were also politely asked if we wanted to buy something (we didn't!) and we searched the entrance ourselves after :-) The palace is just opened in the morning and you can also visit just some parts since the sultan still lives in there. So, it was a rather short visit but nice. The food in Yogyakarta is good and there is a variety you can choose from and there is plenty of "warungs" where you can eat good and cheap! And they have colourful rickshaws as well, as you can see it on the pictures!

Rickshaw in Yogya
Kraton dragon
The "big thing" in Yogyakarta is definitely the two temples of Borobudur and Prambanan (Buddhist and Hindu temple). So we got up very early one day for the sunrise tour to Borobudur... It was a nice sunrise, but you don't see much of the temple itself since it is quite far away. After we left the view point (as all the other western tourists did) we headed to Borobudur itself (which costs 25 USD per person!). The temple is huge and so is the amount of people visiting it (it looks like hordes are fighting their way into a castle). Furthermore, there is plenty of school groups in Borobudur which, apparently, haven't seen western people in real live, so you feel a bit like a pop star! We were asked about 50 times for pictures, not counting the pictures being taken silently, and you don't have time to really appreciate the temple (especially on the top of it). Somehow, they are attracted to our "white" skin and you can see this also in the supermarkets, where you can buy a lot of creams for "a whiter skin", it's even in sunscreen (and we try to get brown).

Sunrise view to Borobudur
Sarong for the visit 
Stupa on top
Picture please!
Borobudur temple
The day after, we visited the other temple Prambanan in the afternoon. It is pretty amazing when you see the huge temples built here and it was a relaxed visit (most likely because we had a local guide with us). Unfortunately, the weather was not the best (a bit cloudy) so the sunset was not good, but it was worth a visit. Especially, besides the main temples, you can visit some more but you have to walk a bit. Therefore, you are basically alone once you arrive at the other temples :-) (nobody asking for "Picture???")

Side temple in Prambanan
We were also able to watch the third swiss game in Yogya before we left for Solo, a town just about an hour away from Yogya. According to the guide books, there should be some more temples and a steam train... once we arrived, we asked in the hotel about the train. The answer: Which train? ... so we went to the tourist information (which was closed) and we tried another hotel for more information about the steam train. Answer: "Which train???" So we had to wait for the next day when we figured out, that the steam train is not running any more (only on request) but we could visit the temples in the country side of Solo and a waterfall with a lot of monkeys to see. Besides temples and trains, we also visited a dance theatre (we did not understand a word but it was funny anyway, especially the part where the orchestra gets food delivered from the warung outside!).

Foggy temple close to Solo
Fertility temple in Solo
Theatre in Solo
From Solo, we headed east and the ramadan started. In the guidebooks, it's written that it will be very difficult to find food during the day, but this is definitely not true in east Java! We had no problems and even with the bus from Solo to Malang we stopped for lunch... and in Malang it was neither a problem (luckily). The only thing we noticed was in one restaurant where they served "thousands of different tea's during ramadan" which means that you get your beer in a tea cup instead of a glass :-) who cares! Well, and besides eating and drinking, you can also visit some things in Malang. They have a small bird and small animal market (birds, rabbits, cats, dogs and other animals in very small, sad cages) a small old town and a tour that EVERY tourist does: the Bromo. We haven't seen many other western tourists in Yogya or Solo and even in Malang, you don't see many, but once you arrive at the sunrise view point for Bromo, they all show up! It feels like a million tourists are keen on seeing this sunrise and after it, you head back to your car and into the crater to be dragged to the next tourist attraction, a horse ride to the staircase to the top of Bromo. Fortunately, we did not have to take the horse ride so we could walk there and have a look a the enormous crater and the surrounding (and be aware that the nice crater you see is NOT Bromo cone). Except that there were too many tourists, it was a nice view up there.

Sunrise view to Bromo
In the crater
Not Bromo but nice though
From Malang, after the game between Switzerland and Argentina :-( we went to our last stop on Java (yes, Java is also an island!) to visit the sulfur workers on Mount Ijen. It is a bit similar to Bromo since almost all the tourists are doing this tour, you see a lot of western people hiking up the slope to the crater and you see also a lot of people selling stuff up there and on the way. But the view on top was definitely worth the early start and the way up to the crater! And as soon as you walk away from the main path, there is no others any more and you can enjoy the views without being asked: "Buy?? Yes?" or "Very cheap price" :-)

Ijen crater lake
Ijen crater
Sulphur worker
Another sulphur worker
Finally, we left Java by ferry to move on to Bali. We have seen some very nice places, but there is also some drawbacks, especially the people staring at you, the ubiquitous questions like: "Taxi, yes??", "Buy, yes??" or even shorter just "Yeeees???" and the ton's of pictures you are requested to pose for. But now, on Bali, this should change a bit since they should be used more to western people.

Fort in Melakka
Leguan visiting Melakka
French fries in Melakka
The hordes are entering Borobudur
Buddha statue
Guardian at temple in Solo
Statue close to Solo
Sulphur workers at work
Singapore flyer
Bird park KL