Thursday, November 19, 2009

Surabaya Adventures

Spent the last three days at an eco-tourism place called PPLH in Trawas. Admittedly, I went with the impression that I would be roughing it out for the three days… ie. Trekking to a campsite/dormitory, bathing in make-shift toilets and eating from a little camping stove. I couldn’t have been more wrong. PPLH, while not exactly 4-star, far exceeded my expectations. Our host school was really considerate and put us up in the supposedly VIP bungalow chalets while their own students stayed in maybe 10-20 bed bungalows/rooms which were actually also pretty nice.

While I had expected to be also having plenty of physical activities, it ended up more leisurely and fun. There was a leisurely 30min walk (not really a trek) to a local Javanese village to observe their lifestyle and another fun walk along a river which was already ‘modernized’ cause the government had already build a concrete river bank. That walk ended up with some water splashing fun in the river and eating plain rish with grilled fish using only our hands. The last activity was slightly more physical.. involving a 45-60min long trek through forest path up a reasonably steep mountain to visit Jolotunda, an old Hindu Temple.

On the whole, it was a pretty interesting experience. While comfortable, we were always on the look out for frogs and lizards and other strange insects and creatures creeping into our room. On the first night, I woke up to find a frog on top of my mosquito net! I have no idea how it got there. Thank God I decided to use the mosquito net.

4 more days before going home to Singapore. Barely 17 days to the 10km StanChart run. I’m cautiously worried cause I’d kicked my toe against the bed when I first arrived and till now, while it’s gotten better, it’s still hurting. Hope it recovers in time. Will probably get it checked out when I get home. Hope it’s nothing more serious.

Sunrise at PPLH. But couldn't find out what these two mountains were. :P

Terrace padi fields along the river where we walked

View of a canyon from the river

Gateway to Jolotunda Temple

Tomb of Airlangga at Jolotunda Temple

Monday, November 16, 2009

From Sydney to Surabaya

The last couple of weeks have been a real whirlwind. Started off with an official school trip to Sydney to visit 3 local schools to learn more about their leadership and boarding programmes. Then, it was the last week of school and there were so many meetings and dinners and farewells that I could barely catch my breath. Immediately after the last farewell party on Saturday (which incidentally was also the first time in a long time that I actually stayed up all night!), I had to prepare for the overseas immersion programme in Surabaya. Phew. (Deep breath…)

I’m in Surabaya now and have been here for about 6 days. Although I have been involved in many overseas programmes and arranging for homestays, I must admit this is the first time that I will be staying with a host family for so long – almost 2 weeks! Of course, at times, it does feel like I am intruding on the family’s privacy but at the same time, the family members are very warm and friendly and do go out of the way to make my stay pleasant. Another student is also attached to this same host family so I also get to enjoy sharing the same bed with another student! Don’t think I’ve ever done that….. EVER….

Surabaya is really hot. I mean 37 degree Celsius hot. We went to the beach today and took a boat out to some sand isle and wow… the sun was burning at my skin through my long pants! It’s my first time in Surabaya and if memory serves me right, not counting Bintan, this is the fourth Indonesian city I’ve visited, the other three being Jakarta, Medan and Jogjakarta. There really isn’t much to see in Surabaya as far as tourist sights are concerned. It’s pretty much a financial/business/port city. But the malls here are quite incredible. I’ve visited Tunjungan Plaza, a mall which is about 3 times that of Ngee Ann City. You can try to imagine Suntec City… but multiplied three times in terms of the number of floors. Lolz.

I’m off for an outdoor experience for the next two nights. Again, it’s been almost 8 years since I last went for such an outdoor trek. Thank God I understand we will be staying in dorms and not tents. Sorry for sounding a little spoilt, but it’s really been a long time and I don’t know if my body can take the shock. Heh.

Will try to blog about it when I return on Thursday night… provided I am not like half/completely dead.

Until then, here are some pics. The first was taken when I was in Sydney, when I took my first ever outdoor jog around the Sydney Opera House! The others were taken in Surabaya - one taken in a cave where there was beam of light shining from the ceiling, so I couldn’t resist having a ‘Paul-on-the-road-to-Damascus’ moment (google it if you don’t know what that is) and the other is me at the jetty at Kenjeran Beach. The last was taken at the Suramadu bridge, supposedly Indonesia’s longest bridge (about 5.4km long).

Running around Sydney Opera House

'Road-to-Damascus' Moment

On the jetty at Kenjeran Beach

Suramadu Bridge - Indonesia's Longest Bridge