Sense of Impermanence teaches you something permanent...
One thing I love about travelling is that it gives you the sense of Impermanence that you only experience whenever you're out of your normal protective shell of your own country or province. It's as if your somewhere in between your reality. You know that WHERE YOU ARE AT is not at all your 'normal' reality. Thus, you get to appreciate every little gritty detail of your surroundings that local residence do not at all notice in normal circumstances.
We got a taste of our so called 'impermanence' last month. With only our backpacks, we set to the Island of Java. We got lucky with our tickets, which only costs us around 2,500php ($61) from Manila to Jakarta and back. There's a catch though, it was a night flight. Which means you get to stay in the airport until a bus arrives in the airport ready to take passengers to their city destinations.
We weren't planning on staying overnight in any hotel anyway, and we weren't in a hurry, and busses are the cheapest way to go to the train station -- 125php (2.58 usd) as compared to a taxi or shuttle that will cost you around 500php each.. And so we spent our 5 hour wait in one of the 24 hour small restaurant and waited for our 125peso-ride.
(Damri Bus Station at Soekarno Airport in Jakarta)
One thing that you have to know about travelling in Indonesia, is that you have to atleast know how to speak their language. It will get you around easily. Like for instance, i wouldn't know that the bus would arrive at around 6am, and where would it stop had I not asked the security. And lastly, you have to atleast know where you want to go. Thus, saves you more time, and would in turn allow you to see more.
(yes, a map helps. ^^ i find that Google Maps in your Android phones helps a whole lot as well. It gives you, not only the map but directions on how to get there. )
After taking our sweet time in the airport, drinking coffee, going to toilets to wash up, and take pictures, we finally were on our bus around 7am, on the way to Gambir Train Station to catch our next train ride to Bandung City.
(..in the bus to Gambir.. They were quite comfortable, and the aircondition works well enough. If you don't have enough sleep at the airport, you get to sleep during your bus ride with no worries at all of missing your stop since this bus ends at Gambir.)
If you are in a hurry to go to Bandung, there is always a shuttle named Cititrans that costs 550php (10.32usd) per head. But if you want to stop by National Monument in Jakarta, and atleast you get to see the city a bit, then take this bus.
With an hour or so to kill as we wait for our train ride to Bandung, we walked around National Monument, which the locals refer to as MoNas.
The sky still was a bit cloudy. So, i guess all the weathers' wrath was poured all at one time a week ago during the flood, which just gave us a very conducive weather to walk around this hot humid country and enjoy the sights without getting heat stroke.
(The Invisible Backpacker.. )
i love referring to me and my friend as The Invisible Backpackers. As a tourist, you don't want people around you know that you are a foreigner. First, for protection/safety purposes. Second, prices are a lot cheaper when you are perceived as one of them.
(MoNas and a Lampost)
Not only was the park clean, and was a good place to have picnics or hang out, it even houses dioramas that tells you the history of Indonesia-- how they fought for freedom, and other prominent locals who devoted their lives in making Indonesia a better place for their people, etc. However, I suggest that you don't take that tour to the peak of that Monument. It will waste half of your day just queuing to go up. since there were only one elevator that can take 11 persons each trip. The skyline though was good, but then again, half a days' wait isn't worth it.
Anyways, in the middle of taking pictures and enjoying the park, we checked our watches and it was 15 minutes before our train leaves. It was a good 10 minute (or so) walk from the Train Station to the park. So, i guess if we run our way back to the station we could get to it in 6 or 7 minutes?? Backpacks truly was a good idea when you were running late for your next ride.
(Bandung Train Station)
This train ride was a good opportunity to catch on your lack of sleep since it will take like 3 hours to get to your destination. We left Gambir Station around 8am, and arrived in Bandung Station around 11:30am.
A friend was already waiting for us at the station.
Now, let me tell you that, not only speaking the language will help you a lot as you travel in Indonesia. It also helps when you know someone who is from the place who truly knows the area. A local friend can be a good local guide. And a real blessing.
(William, we call him 'Bunso', as the youngest in our trip from Bandung to Central Java..)
We were blessed to have a few local guides who happen to be connected to one of my old friends from the city. He was kind enough to send his brother (William) to take care of us while he was at work. He took us with him in his business trip down to Central Java and showed more of what Jogjakarta can offer.
(Abang (older brother) Tonny and Vidi, locals (and good friends) from the beautiful city of Bandung)
Having indonesian friends with you gets you to try stuff that typical filipinos won't even dare. Back here in the philippines, it is seldom that you see people eat at what we filipino locals call 'carinderia sa tabi-tabi' (food stalls at the side of the street) due to danger of contracting hepatitis or other diseases.
But here it is quite normal to eat outside along the streets. My local friend said that you would know if the food is good or even clean and safe here in Indonesia, IF there are Chinese people,with cars parked, eat there. Which I guess is a good indicator.
We had breakfast on one of these places. I am not much of a peanut sauce eater, but the stuff i got was pretty good. It was spicy and sweet with a little bit of saltiness in it that made the whole thing tastes interestingly good.
(i can't remember if this is Lontong Kari or Kupat Tahu. hehe. Well, you get to try them both if you get the chance. )
Our friend took it upon himself to show us both culinary worlds. The other night he took us to an expensive sumptuous meal at an interesting restaurant which the name i can't quite remember now. But i do remember that it was right beside Eiger Store at Cihampelas Street. It serves healthy organic food, thus explains the prices. I am picky with pasta, but let me tell you that they served good tasty pasta!
So, the next days he made it a point that we'll try street food, and enjoy not only the local taste of indonesian food, but also see how much cheaper it gets when you eat out (literally).
Anyways, after breakfast, he took us for a walk along their tea fields. I didn't realize how big their tea plantation was until we were driving along vast and vast of endless shrubs of tea.
We arrived there, and a couple of harvesters just finished their tasks for the day. Which was actually a pretty good time to bother them. hehe. Atleast, we won't be in their way as we ask them questions and all. They were nice enough to explain which leaves to pick, and which ones to leave. One or two of the women even gave me tea leaves shoot as souvenir (which i can't remember where i put. haisst). One of the men gave me a leaf to chew on. Bitter. hehe. These leaves obviously have their glory once they get dried and processed to perfection giving us good indonesian tea. The ones being exported taste good, they say. I knew how local tea taste like, and i love it! How much more if i get to taste the exported ones!?
My friend accidentally saw this sign that leads to the falls. With anticipation, we followed the trail that lead to the said falls. And we weren't disappointed.
We came back from the falls and have found our new friend harvesters just happily ended up their wait as they pick up their bags of leaves to be sold to their employers who just arrived to pick up their stuff.
Now as I write this and I get to see these photos I have of them, and I get to thinking how their faces show nothing of the hardships that we outsiders seem to perceive. Their smiles and care free attitude as they relate to us, strangers, amazes me.
As tourists, we get to see worlds that we don't see in our day to day life. I wake up every morning with food on my table each day. I go out on the streets and ride the jeepney (our public transpo) and see people busy on their way to their own tasks for the day. You ride the morning bus to the city and you get to see people in their executive attires on their way to the business district of Manila. And here, in the tea fields of the city of Bandung, you get to see a different set of working force that requires more than just heat from the sun, and backbreaking tasks of carrying something heavy. They posses that enduring fight to live for a day, and face another, pushing their bodies to its limits just so there's food on their tables.
(after a day's work, @Bandung Tea Fields)
This was our state of Impermanence. A 5-day taste of something out of the normal. You go back to your own country, and you sit behind your desk as you do your days' work, and catch up for the lost time during the trip. Incidentally, you (as a traveler) carry with you something that is far from being temporary. But something that marks you in the inside. My travels always changes me from within. I guess that is far from the Impermanence that my perception holds during the trip. Now, something PERMANENT is set inside. It widens not only your geographical horizon, but also the horizons of your mind. I may spend my life finding out how these travels have changed me. Its evidences comes out through time, as you live your life slowly, thankful each day. And excited and full of anticipation when you get to have the chance to feel that sense of Impermanence once again.