Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A wonderful adventure to Java (Surabaya to Jogjakarta)

Just completed an amazing and adventurous trip in Java, along with my amazing girlfriend. We didn't take up any tour package, but to explore on our own.

We touched down at Surabaya airport. There was a very helpful guy at the Information Center who sketched up on a piece of paper explaining to us how we can use public transportation to Probolinggo, from where we can access Cemorong Lawang to commence the Bromo adventure. The bus journey took couple of hours, which hurt our butt real good. There were some really interesting scenes whereby there were people hop on and off the bus to sell things, snacks and even to play some musics and singing.

A little scam took place in Probolinggo, whereby the mini bus operator wanted to keep us waiting till the bus got filled up prior to departing (it's low season), and he wouldn't let us go with ojek, the motorbike taxi. Anyway, I managed to cut a deal with him to wait no longer and push off.

Put up a night at Cafe Lava hostel. It's cold and wet. There were few extremely friendly (annoying) young fellows selling scarfs and goods and they just kept coming despite we had already  bought some items from them. Woke up at 3AM, thinking to commence trekking to the Penanjakan view point at where we could catch sun rise and the broad view of Bromo Mount . It was cold and drizzling. Fortunately that we bumped into a cool and funny jeep driver. Out of safety concern, we decided to skip the trekking and take the jeep. We were way ahead of our planned schedule that we had to kill some time at the rundown cafe house getting hot coffee and tea. We trekked to Pananjakan. Met a bunch of Indonesian campers. They just set up a tent and put up a night in the wild. Pretty cool, and pretty cold I bet. The mist was so heavy that the visibility was almost entirely impaired. Eventually there was no sun rise seen and the Bromo Mount was well hidden too. Disappointed we were, nevertheless we did have a very satisfying hot mee cup there. We were in luck that we'd waited long enough and at about 7am the mist started to clear. The view of the greenery of the village and the Bromo mount and Bromo Crater was breathtaking. Following that the jeep took us to the so called *Jalan Tikus*, a bypass route to the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park where we crossed the Sea of Sand and then hiked up to Bromo Crater. It's fuming heavily and the wind was high. The mist and the rain came and went off. Despite the harsh weather, the scenery was still interestingly amazing.

The jeep then took us back to hostel. We checked out and left for Probolinggo sharing the minibus with a bunch of fellows from the UK. Spent 2 nights in Probolinggo, a town that had almost nothing to do, except for the Madakaripura Waterfall, which was about 1 hour away by ojek motorbike taxi. We tried to find a rental motorbike but to no avail. We were scammed before that the waterfall was being been shut down due to raining season, which was not true. It's raining slowly. It took about 30 minutes of trekking to get to the waterfall. The waterfall is undoubtedly the most scenic one I've seen anywhere else. The water comes off of a height of 200m. We got drenched wet, and it's freezing cold, but the hardship was definitely worthy. Another thing about the town is this restaurant (CJDW), selling kepiting (crab) masak Asam Manis. The home stay owner strongly recommended it to us, even offered the ride to and from the restaurant. Well, the food was pretty awesome.

Next, we headed for Kawah Ijen. At Probolinggo, we went to the train station to check out the tickets to get to Jogjakarta, only to find out that our original plan would not work as there is no train running at  night. On the way back to hostel, we were *intervened* or helped by the beca driver who introduced us to this transportation agent. We cut a deal with him for transportation to and from Probolinggo - Pos Paltuding (where the Arabica Homestay is and a location closest to Ijen Crater) and to Jogjakarta.

After a good lunch at Nasi Ayam Bromo restaurant and watching a snake in action, we spent the next few hours of depressing ride to get to the Arabica Homestay, where we put up a night and woke up at 1AM to start the Ijen Crater tour. It's cold, wet and heavily misty. We had to trek for about 2 hours to get to the spot where we can see the blue fire. We had to breathe through the special mask / respirator due to high content of sulfur in the atmosphere as we're getting close to the spot. Well, we literally grasped for air. It's hard to imagine how to sulfur miners can continue to work laboriously in such a harsh environment. Such job was documented by BBC as among the toughest job on earth. They mine the sulfur and pick up about 50kg of same to go back each trip. The dancing blue fire was pretty interesting, despite the light pollution by some ignorant tourists. At one point, the wind was blowing the sulfur fumes towards us and we got chocked and our eyes got irritated. Under the guidance of the our guide, we just remained calm and after awhile we slowly made our way back and away from the spot. We had no luck to watching the emerald green lake as the thick mist had killed the visibility altogether. We made a stop midway at the coffee house and had a mee cup.

We traveled back to Probolinggo. Went back to Nasi Ayam Bromo restaurant, but the driver came calling us to get back to the bus before our food was even served as he was going to start driving. We supposed that it will be a comfortable ride as there were just three of us (including Ivar) but it was without air conditioning, and the road was pretty bumpy. It's about 8 hours journey. We arrived at Jogjakarta past midnight. The driver wouldn't send us to straight to our hostel unless we topped him up some money, which Ivar was reluctant to do so. Eventually we managed to get a cab by an old man who was driving at 30kph and we arrived at Venezia Garden hostel.

The next day, first thing of course is to rent a motorbike so that we can go anywhere conveniently. We sent our laundry, went shopping for batik pants in Malioboro street. Had a great Bakso there and then went to the famous Gudeg Yu Djum, it's alright. In the afternoon, did a 1.5 hour ride to Prambanan, a UNESCO World Heritage site and it's a Hindu temple from the 9th century. Thought to catch sunset, but it's too cloudy.

Woke up at 6AM and hit the road for about 1.5 hour to get to Borobodor. Stopped at Indo Mart for mee cup. The crowd was not too bad. However, the cloud was too much. The Merapi mount was almost hidden. We hanged out a bit and took some photos. Met a bunch of local students who approached us to talk and socialize, as part of their course/project assessment.

Headed for Perangtritis beach in the evening in an attempt to catch sunset despite the fact that we'd known ahead that there was a slim chance of it. yes, it's extremely cloudy and the sunset was well hidden. We discovered though the nature mirror. Something like what there is in Sasaran. Have some fun taking the reflection photography. Went for nasi goreng babi dinner at Warung Bakmi Ketandan. Waited for extraordinarily long and then we found out that we had to wait for the queue. The food was delicious. On the way back to homestay, it poured on us. We were drenched wet and trapped outside for a short while taking shelter in front of a bank.

Headed for Pindul cave, some 1.5 hour away. As we were arriving, we had a company who was offering to lead the way to Pindul. He insisted it no matter how we turned it down. So, let it be. We bought a package for caving on foot, caving on a float and water rafting. It's fine with discovering some bats, crystal and carbonate features. We proceeded to heading for Pantai Timang. As we were getting close to the beach, there was a stretch of extremely bumpy road. The road is made of thousands and thousands of small stones. It's so bumpy that I was so concerned that the tyre of the bikes went busted, and we would be so stuck in the middle of nowhere. Anyway, we managed through it in great pain and exhaustion, and eventually we got to a heavenly scenic beach. It's a sunny afternoon. The sea was ferocious and the waves were going as high as 3-4m. The view of the cliffs and the bay was just terrific. We wanted to ride the gondola (a short cable car literally using the men power to turn the wheels) but we were too tired for it. Got a mee cup and a coconut. Did some photography. Went down to the beach, the water was emerald and clear. Strong waves were hitting relentlessly. It's quite an experience. It's no doubt a huge losses that we couldn't stay long enough for the sunset as we had to travel approximately 2.5 hours back to the home stay, and of course through the shitty and bumpy stretch of stone road. Despite the hardship that we had to deal with, I think the beauty of the beach is a fair reward. Went for Ayam Penyet Surabaya again for dinner.

Morning of last day, wanted to get the delicious bakso at Malioboro street, it hadn't open for business. Went across the street and had gudeg. Returned the bike. Checked out and left for airport, made a stop at a coffee shop for shopping.  

It's an amazing adventure, with amazing company. Can't wait for the next one. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A blessed 2016

First half of the year was pretty slow in terms of works. Plenty of days off.

Did a hitch onboard NB2 drillship working for SHELL. Finished job and rigged down equipment.

Did a solo trip to Vietnam traveling from South to North. Simply amazing trip.

Spent some time working down in Labuan. Went KK - Kundasang in conjunction with Keamatan festival with a Rayner, my technician and is a Dusun.

Went Singapore a week for job training. Had a superstar Katong Laksa. A pleasant discovery.

Brexit took place. Market crashed momentarily.

Sent off sister to UK for furthering her studies in Edinburgh.

First time working down in Brunei. Was surprised at the sight of rigs and production donkeys in the middle of town. At the workshop, someone stopped me from continuing to work at mid-day on Friday. Worked on an average of 15hrs a day everyday onboard SKD Pelaut Tender rig. Pretty worn out. Surprisingly I had quite some porky meals there, thanks to the Chinese and the Philippine restaurants. Lol....

Trump won the US presidential election. Huge uncertainty thus arise on geo-politic, economy, trade deal, climate policy and etc.

Mila has repatriated back to town. In an unexplained odds, our path has crossed again. Wish her the very best of her future endeavors.

Went back onboard NB 2 drillship. It's drilling in such remote location, that we rode the crew boat for more than 15 hours. It's a pain in the ass! While being onboard, I was notified that my dad was in hospital. Requested for emergency leave. When I arrived in hospital to visit my dad, his vital signs had been stabilized. However, his recovery was excruciatingly slow, perhaps due to old age. Anyway, Count it a huge blessing that it's no chronic illness nor any complicated medical complications. Fortunately enough that he received the medical attention timely. It could easily be a life threatening case.

Dad's condition has improved enough and he was discharged from hospital. A planned family trip to Seoul and Jeju island went scrapped.

Market was still flooding with crude inventory. Finally, OPEC and Non OPEC have come together with deal whereby each will cut production in an attempt to push up oil price which I hope will go as far as 65 USD / bbl and sustain thereafter. We are so deprived of the well-deserved benefits and opportunities to make changes as we wish for. Anyway, we should expect significant recovery of oil price.

More investments down the pipeline and moving. Could only have faith they will work out alright in time to come. Hope things come to fruition and life will be great.

In a hindsight, it is a blessed year.