Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Java Jive '08 Part 1: Impressions

I just got back from a 10 day 'backpacking' holiday in Java with two of my best buddies Nan and Panda. We had a great time there sampling the local culinary delights, were awestruck by the temples and ancient ruins and broke the bank shopping for souvenirs, t-shirts and everything else in between!

Now, comes the gigantic task of sorting through the hundreds of photos I took throughout the trip, from Jakarta to Bandung, then by train to Jogja and finally a half-day sojourn in the Solo countryside.

So, while I put iPhoto and Photoshop Elements into overdrive, here are a few tantalising morsels of what I call my Java Jive 2008. Enjoy!

We touched down on a very wet and congested Jakarta. Those horror stories about Jakarta's traffic jams? All true!

First up: MONAS (Monumen Nasional) Park. Lots of monuments (duh!) and a very informative museum about Indonesia's political history.

We wandered around the seamier side of Jakarta in our quest to venture beyond the beaten track and found a shipyard of gigantic sailboats and a squatters block side by side. Amazing!

This is Taman Mini Indonesia, a Bali-meets-Disneyland-meets-Taman Negara behemoth of a park which was filled to the brim with visitors because we happened to go there on its 33rd anniversary celebrations and entrance was free for the day!

We then escaped to cool Bandung, a city situated about 750m above sea level. Panda got a hoot out of performing his solat at the largest mosque in the city, Masjid Agung.

Then it was off to the markets for some retail therapy. Here we are at the local textile market looking for telekungs for Panda's mum.

Traffic in Bandung was also chaotic, no thanks to traditional modes of transportation like horse carts and trishaws.

Indonesia sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, so volcanoes and hot springs abound throughout Java. This is Kawah Putih (White Crater) where the trees are charred black and the lake water is an otherworldly green.

In Jogja, we were literally driven into a batik factory, but I didn't mind as it was an educational trip which allowed me to appreciate the fabric art-form even more.

I couldn't say the same about the Wayang Kulit performance, as it was performed in a sweltering hall with no fans, no windows and worse, the performance was not in Bahasa, but Javanese!

The jewel in Java's crown is Borobudur, a 9th century Buddhist temple complex situated about an hour from Jogja.

Nan couldn't pass on trying the famous local coffee called Kopi Luwak, brewed from coffee beans collected from within civet cat droppings. It tasted a lot better than it sounded, believe me.

We also got to explore Taman Sari, a partly ruined complex built as a pleasure garden by the first Sultan in 1765. Lots of tunnels, pools and dutch style architecture. Great photo-ops!

Our last day in Java was spent in Solo, a city renowned for its beautiful countryside. Everywhere we turned, there were picturesque rice terraces, majestic tea plantations and wind swept sugar cane fields.

There were also a few ancient Hindu temples (called candi), which are still used today by the local population for their religious ceremonies as well as sites for their wedding photos.

This is where I sign off for now. Hope you guys enjoyed the pick of the litter. There's more, of course, and I hope to be posting them up in the days to come. Tunggu ya, pak!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Three cocks for the price of one!

This telephone conversation was recorded during a phone-out by two local djs to a catering company. CAUTION: I will not be held responsible for any bodily liquids squirting out the nose or death by ruptured funny bone or any other causes as a result of listening to this audio clip.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Pulau Weh 2008: Part 7

Pulau Weh has got to be one of best dive sites on the planet due to its crystal clear waters and abundant marine life. The sheer variety of corals and fishes was astounding, from pilot sharks to mantas, giant gorgonian sea fans to tiny nudibranches, there is something here for every diver.

And thanks to this lady, my good friend and dive mentor Yanni, I was able to savour the underwater wonders of Pulau Weh.

Ok, on with the final few dive pics. And have I saved the best (most of which were taken by Nazri) for last. This is a black-saddled sharpnose pufferfish. It's basically a pufferfish lah (fugu, you know?) but got a bit too creative (or narcissistic) about its appearance. ;)

This is a very very small nudibranch which only a very skillful diver could stay still enough to capture on film. Who else: Nazri lah!

This pretty little thing is called a flatworm. And its brightly coloured body is to ward off predators. Unfortunately this strategy had backfired when facing its most notorious enemy: the underwater photographer. Pretty mah.... so take picture lor....

This elusive fish is called the spotted boxfish. It is a distant relative of the pufferfish (probably by marriage) Hehehe

Wah.... a lady diver dropped her handkerchief..... no lah, this is a nudibranch egg mass. Apparently they spiral in an anti-clockwise direction. I wonder if nudibranch eggs in the southern hemisphere spiral in the opposite direction.....

That's me with Simon and his big-ass underwater camera equipment.... looks impressive but damn bloody hard to manoeuvre underwater especially when there is strong current.

The thing about Weh is the abundance of fish and the water clarity that makes the entire vista so enchanting. Everything is just that much more colourful, and many a time we found ourselves in depths over 40m and yet it was so clear and bright.

This is a table coral with its very own centrepiece. Maybe the host is expecting a few divers for dinner. Yummm....

Another honeycomb moray eel guarding its lair against predators and pesky divers who can't seem to leave it alone.

Our final dive of the trip was at a shallow sand bank dubbed the volcano due to the underwater hot springs that spew out boiling hot sulfurous gas.

Even in such an environment, we could see lots of fish, and very large ones at that, swimming around as if they realy relished the sauna-like environment.

This is the aquatic version of a communal Japanese sauna where every one just gathers around the warmth and lets it all hang out. :)

Erm.....I think this is Simon making his contribution to the gaseous environment.

Before we knew it, it was time to go back up.... for good. The last dive on the last day was over.... Time to head back to shore and clean up and pack up everything.

Ah, here's the group photo of all 25 of us... erm... where's Nazri? Alamak, he has been cut out of the pic... Sorry bro!

So until the next dive trip, I wish you all clear skies and everything nice. Oh oh, coming up... my JAVA PICS!!!!!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Pulau Weh 2008: Part 6

Poor boatman's wondering where everybody went...

Well, Aris, everybody had jumped overboard when they found out mantas had been sighted here earlier today!

Well, we didn't see mantas right away of course. What we did see right off the bat was a giant school of jacks in a vortex formation.

Needless to say, quite a few of us tried to approach the vortex, but if you have ever tried to chase after fish, even if they're in their thousands, you will know that fish can outswim human divers very very easily.

So, I decided to concentrate on less mobile creatures... like this very interesting species of sea sponge, which actually reminds me of a multi-toothbrush holder which I bought in Bangkok last year.... or was it from Bali.....?

While waiting for the others to descend, I spotted this huge lobster.... head. Quick, somebody call the CSI: Marine to this crime scene.... Decapitated lobster, COD looks like erm... decapitation.... no signs of forced entry into its coral, need to check for traces of GSR and I guess its gonna be a DOA case.

This heavily adorned star fish is another type of noduled Sea Star. Its arms were about six inches long and I swear the thing try to reach out to grab me! Either that or the narcosis had started to kick in.

Another clump of feather star. Remember, this is an animal, not a plant. Whatever.

This is a striped surgeonfish. Its name is derived from its razor sharp hind fins which are used as a protective measure from would be predators. Hehehe and also due to its resemblance to McDreamy.

This hard coral looks like extra large clumps of white fungus... You know, the stuff your mom puts into the Leng Chee Kang and makes you eat because its "good for you"?

After hours of exhaustive searching through my fish books, I finally 'think' that this is a Vagabond Butterflyfish...see the bluish tinge on the edge of its dorsal fins?

Lest you think that I have gotten tired of my favourite u'w subject, here's a very beautiful specimen of the Chromodoris kuniei nudibranch. Thanks to Nazri for pointing it out to me and also for allowing me to post this pic.

This regal looking fish is an Emperor Angelfish....

And not far behind, is his baby, Crown Prince Angelfish. (That's a juvenile Emperor Anglefish for those who are a bit slow.)

This little surgeonfish went to market.... this little surgeonfish stayed at home.... this little surgeonfish had roast decapitated lobster..... this little surgeonfish had none... and this little surgeonfish cried blwee blwee blwee al the way home.

Then suddenly, just as we were about to give up our search, right on cue! Look up in the shallow water! Its a bird! No, it's a plane! No lah, stupid, it's a Manta ray!!!

See, everybody was so happy that they forgot that they need to breathe through the second stage!

No Lynn, you can't breathe through your mouth like a fish.... Oooh.. nice teeth....