|I apologize in advance, this one is eight days worth so it's a day long...
After a long lazy day of relaxing around the guesthouse and lounging around with my two new Dutch friends, I was escorted by the two of them to the train station to wave me goodbye on my overnight train into Bandung. Was a tearful goodbye, but definitely will have to meet up with them again soon. The train ride went fairly quick as I was apparently much more tired than I had expected and slept for most of the ride.
Arriving in Bandung, I went for quite a hike to find a budget guesthouse and managed to track one down eventually. I was hoping, having arrived fairly early in the morning, that I could catch a tour to the volcanoes and such in time, but I had just missed the last tour. I instead ventured out into the streets and had my own self-guided tour for the majority of the day, as I had an early start at 7 am. I got a guided tour through an Asia-Africa conference museum which was fairly interesting, and moreso because there were bus loads of school kids (of all ages) coming up to me asking if they could have their picture with me. I felt like such a celebrity! Typical I guess being from Canada.
I must have walked around for nearly six hours, poking my head in and out of shops and stopping here and there for snacks along the way. I made my way to Jeans Street, which is basically a huge area for shopping, and when traveling on a budget, that's not always the place you want to be. It was interesting all the same, and I managed to make a friend in a coffee shop while waiting for the downpour to subside, which took nearly two hours! On my way back to the guesthouse after a long day, I stopped in for some dinner at a local warung. I ordered myself my usual, nasi goreng and couple cups of tea. Always delicious. While waiting for my meal, as per usual, I played sudoku and the dad and son running the place were intrigued! Their English was minimal so I did my best to teach them how to play, and once my Edinner came, one man kept pointing to my meal to eat it so that he could steal my sudoku book and start playing! I wish I had gotten a picture of that night, in the end I was surrounded by close to six Indonesians eager to learn this strange new game of numbers.
Another early rise the following day, to prep myself for the tour I had booked for the day and grab myself some breakfast. I hopped in the van with two extremely friendly Indonesian guys, one the driver and the other our guide (whom I had surprisingly met the previous night during my sudoku teaching lesson). We stopped into another hostel to pick up another couple, surprise surprise... Dutch! First stop was a rice factory, which was just a small little place on the side of the road and super old, but neat to see the whole process broken down. The rice fields were definitely the highlight of that stop, specifically the clans of old Indonesian women working there butts off. I got quite a few pictures of them, and even grabbed myself a hat and sat in with them for a couple great shots. They kept commenting on my beauty and what nice skin I had! I could've stayed there for hours, but we had to move on.
Some intermittent stops included a short walk across an old Dutch bridge and a bamboo factory. Met lots of adorable kids along the way, who didn't quite understand why we wanted pictures with/of them, but their faces once we showed them the pictures on our camera were priceless. They just thought it was hilarious. The bamboo factory was pretty amazing, gorgeous views as it was situated slightly up on a hill, and the women were incredible weaving together this bamboo to make walls. So quick too! Next stop was a strawberry field, all I can say is YUM! We picked our own berries and sat on a lookout to indulge in our berries while admiring the view. The weather was perfect.
Just before the volcano, we went through a tea plantation which was over 3000 hectares in size. Like the energizer bunny, just kept going and going. Then we made another short trek into a village that I hadn't even realized was within the volcano! We had lunch (rice-noodle soup and tea) within the volcano in an old bamboo home, was a once in a lifetime experience. We then explored every nook and cranny of the volcano which steam was spewing out of every hole in the rocks possible, and came across an incredible waterfall where photos became plenty.
Before heading back home we dipped into the hot springs and enjoyed the hot water, which I have missed so dearly after weeks of cold showers. On the two hour drive back home, we all fell asleep as we were so pooped from a near twelve hour day of touring around southern Bandung. By the time I got dropped off at my hostel, I grabbed some dinner and called it a night.
Following morning I headed to the train station to head to my last and final destination in Indonesia, Jakarta. From what I had heard throughout my travels, Jakarta was the least desirable city to go to in Indonesia, but as my flight was from there to Singapore the following day, it had to be done. I had just missed the next train, so I waited around for a couple hours for the next one and made myself cozy in executive class (the highest you can get on these trains) for the three and a half hour ride to Jakarta. The Indonesians on this train were on a whole different level than any others I had come across, kids were pulling out their blackberrys to check their facebook and everyone seemed much more put together. Was a strange feeling, you could definitely feel the difference in class as I'm sure most Indonesians, although cheap for me, would not be able to afford executive class. That's pretty evidence in the trains stations as the economy class (lowest) trains are usually overcrowded and there's people hanging onto the poles just outside the door to stay in the train.
Headed straight to the nearest hostel area and made myself at home for one night in the cozy little room all to myself. I headed straight for the sights that Jakarta had to offer and managed to squeeze in quite a bit as I arrived in the afternoon and did not want to be out wandering alone after dark. I saw the national monument, couple cathedrals and mosques scattered around town, and then tried to venture to the water but the sun went down and it was further than I had expected so I caught a taxi back to my homeland. Had some dinner near home and called it an early night after a long day of walking.
Next morning, I had some breakfast outside what we would consider a 7-11 back home, and finally after weeks and weeks got to talk to mommy and daddy back home which was really nice. I had been missing them quite a bit :) Still do! Ended up talking a little bit longer than I had anticipated and instead of walking to the train station, I grabbed a cab and managed to get the train and then a bus just in time to take me to the airport. I quickly check in just before they closed up and raced through security just in time to have five minutes to sit before boarding the plane. Oops! Called that one a little too close for comfort.
I arrived in Singapore and used the ever so convenient MRT (subway/skytrain) to get to my hostel and made myself at home at a cute hostel just outside of town. Wandered through the city a bit, and stumbled upon Raffles Hotel which I will later come back to. Then the rain came, and didn't stop so I rushed back to my hostel to relax and avoid the rain. Made a friend from New Zealand who I later had dinner and a few Tiger beers with before calling it a night.
Slept in a little the next morning, which felt great! My usual sleeping pattern has been a little off these days, waking up at 6-7 in the morning. Made my first Canadian friends (4 from Ontario) over breakfast but were unfortunately just heading off to Malaysia that day, however I might be meeting up with them over the next few days. I had made myself a self-guided walking tour the previous night and headed out on the town to explore what Singapore had to offer. I visited tons of sights including; National Museum of Singapore, Fort Canning Park, ton of old government buildings, Singapore River and walked around the beautiful waterfront. I stopped in for lunch at a massive hawker centre, which was filled with business men and women but I managed to find a seat and enjoy a giant bowl of Pho (Jess I know you're pleased). After a long day and failing to find this mysterious Holland Village, I was pooped and decided it was time to go back to the hostel to change and head out for a drink at the Long Bar at Raffles Hotel. Just as my opa (grandpa) had done decades ago, I sat at the bar and ordered myself a Singapore Sling while eating peanuts and throwing the shells on the floor. Pretty cool feeling :) After my drink I headed back and my day was done.
The next day, another early start, was perfect as I had planned to visit the Singapore Zoo before heading to Malaysia in the late afternoon. The zoo was incredible and many of the animals were allowed to roam free so as you walk through the place there are monkeys swinging above you and iguanas crossing your path. Felt like I was smack in the middle of the jungle, pretty interesting to say the least. I was able to make one of their shows, which I heard was the best of the best, the Elephants of Asia show which was great to see. Nearly three and a half hours later I headed back home and stopped in for some lunch. Had a bowl of pasta (which I had been craving for quite some time) with a German guy, and we later moved upstairs to further indulge in a caramel frappe at Starbucks. Great lunch!
I said my goodbyes and grabbed my backpack which was back at the hostel before wandering through Little India to the bus station. I hopped on the next bus to take me into Malaysia, which to Melaka was only three hours away. Got on and off a few times to deal with immigration, but was happy to add a few more stamps to my passport. Arriving in Melaka it was nearing 10pm, so I decided just to taxi instead of wandering about to find a hostel, and crawled into bed in a ten person dorm room.
Even with the mosquito net wrapped around me like a cocoon, I woke up covered in mosquito bites, so I bought some more heavy duty repellent today as the one I have doesn't seem to be doing much. Today I wandered around Melaka, which is nice, but without meeting anyone got a little lonely at times. Neat to see some of the old heritage buildings, the massive pirate ship which is now used as their maritime museum and wandering around the river and up to the waterfront. Now I'm relaxing in my hostel's lounge and taking advantage of the free internet access as you may have noticed, but it looks as though my time is up. Hope all is well back home. Will be heading to Kuala Lumpur tomorrow to meet up with the Canadian boys I met, and even a fellow will be joining on my birthday whom I met in Puerto Princesa, Philippines... so it looks like I won't be celebrating on my own for the big 2-2. Missing you all lots. Still can't believe I've been away from home for over a month, and won't be back in another month and a bit. No promises on Christmas, but I will do my best! LOVE YOU ALL!