Tana Toraja

Hey there folks,

So since I last wrote I went on a pretty stellar adventure to the northern part of Sulawesi in the Tana Toraja region. I had a wicked time, and it being my very first entirely independent adventure abroad, was a pretty monumental trip in my travels. Here’s a brief timeline outlining my trek:

  • Got on the night bus to Rantepao which lasted 10 hours. As part of that bus ride, I met a chick from Makale (a city south of Rantepao) going to university in Makassar who was such a big help in my journey north, and just to throw this in here for a venting factor, met a bizarre fellow who would continuously shake my hand as if I was the resurrection of some monumental figure and kept on calling me “Miranda”. My name is Amira, thanks.
  • Travelled around Toraja via ojek, which is essentially a motorcycle taxi. The sites I visited include Ketekesu, Londa, Lemo, Suaya, Palawa, Saddang Village, Batu Tumonga, and Lokkamata. Me and Pak Denny (the lad who took me around on his bike) took a stop at this one place: Tinimbayo Cafe, which if you’re ever on an excursion here, I recommend to stop at. Not only does it have a spectacular view over the endless rice paddies with mountains in the backdrop, but the nicest staff as well. We chilled there for an hour and watched some TV with the folks there.
  • Got drenched from Monsoon rain. Stinky apparel for the remainder of my stay – boo yah!
  • Had dinner 2 nights in a row at Mart’s Cafe. This place is so bomb for meeting up with other backpackers, but unfortunately, I didn’t have the balls to approach anyone. That’ll change though, I swear. Nonetheless, the aura of this place is somewhat… intoxicating? A bunch of hustlers hang out at this joint, trying to offer you a traditional Torajanese experience (ie: the elaborate, expensive and very spiritual funerals), but quit harassing you as soon as you tell them you have your own set itinerary.
  • As part of my dinners here, I got to enjoy free live music courtesy of drunk hustlers. One man on the guitar, another slappin’ the spoons, and a whole bunch belting out tunes from the east to the west – Indonesian folklores, La Cucaracha, Simon and Garfunkel, you name it. When I told one of them that my mama is from Medan, he would give shout outs in between songs: “salaam sama orang Batak!”, “selemat makan, Batak!”. I then talked with the same dude, who goes by the name of Yakit, about religion, Torajan culture, and beer.
  • Had some chicken pa’piong, which is essentially a slow-cooked rice burrito wrapped in either banana leaves or cabbage in bamboo. An authentic Torajanese meal.
  • On the sweaty bus ride home, I was known as either “the German” or “bulek”.

Well that just about scratches the surface of my trip to Tana Toraja. Here are some photos to illustrate what my writing lacked:

ImageLonda.

ImagePalawa.

ImageSaddang Weaving Village.

ImageSaddang Weaving Village.

ImageLove child of monsoon rain and ojek cruising.

Advertisements

Selamat Hari Kasih Sayang

Happy Valentine’s Day from Makassar, folks! Not that I celebrate it, but just thought I’d give a shout to all the romantics out there. This day is going to be the source of my soon-to-be Beyonce booty. The students at my new school gave me a ton of chocolates, which was so pleasant to recieve. I had to do some re-gifting though… too much to handle. So I hooked up the security guard of the school who gave me a ride home on his motor bike with some Kit Kats, and almond chocolates for the maid at my homestay (who I may as well state is the grandest cook ever).

Teaching so far has been so interesting. The students never seize to impress me – not trying to sound like an aging hippie witch, but I really am bewildered and left in awe at the eagerness, skill and motivation that people obtain at such a young age. Consistantly wanting to be educated and always striving to learn new vocab. Makes me embarassed with regards to my broken Indonesian – and Spanish for that matter. Okay, my Mother Teresa moment is over.

Hope you all you love birds have a prime Valentine’s Day. Now leave me with my chocolates (hey, I’m burning calories just by sitting in a chair – it’s like 30+ degrees! Get off my case).

Makassar, Thus Far

Aside

Yup, so as per usual with any beginner’s blog, the gap between posts are clearly quite large. I’ll just cut to the chase anyways: I’m here in Makassar, South Sulawesi, one of the more eastern islands of Indonesia (if you’re having troubles locating that on a map, it’s the chunk of land that looks like a lowercase “H”). However, I’ve been up to some stuff between Singapore and Makassar, so in point form, here it is:

  • In Jakarta I chillaxed with some family members: ate my heart out on satay ayam and lontong; a few motorbike rides here and there; and a jolly good trip to the beer garden on Block M (which leads to an incredibly haggard morning – sweating in your sleep due to the humid temperatures… not the most splendid thing to wake up to).
  • Compared and contrasted drug, sex and alcohol culture in Canada to Indonesia: homosexuality is still seen as taboo; drug use has insane penalties, but the substances that’s common amongst youth isn’t your average hash or pot – it’s snorting cocaine or perhaps tripping on some hallucinogenic; and as for alcohol, y’all probably were with me and thought that Indonesia might have swept the idea of consumption under the rug as the country with the world’s largest Muslim population… we were wrong, people. Alcohol is big here.
  • Arrival in Makassar as of February 6.

Since then I’ve been touring around the city thanks to the uncle of my homestay (he’s actually a fella who did an exchange program with my mom back in the day). So as it stands, I work in a school 2 days a week, an English learning centre for another 2 days, and a food court on Fridays by Losari Beach to practice my Bahasa. With the weekends off, I have my own leisure time, which has ironically been booked: Tana Toraja, Tanjung Bira (birthday weekend, aw yeah), and Masamba. This weekend was actually my only weekend in Makassar, and I think I spent it pretty wisely. Went on what was suppose to be a snorkeling trip to Samalona Island which then turned into scuba diving courtesy of and Indonesian holding a PR in Holland. Thanks, Patrick. The marine life was stunning. A cloud of clownfish with rose-like corals covered the drop-off that we were exploring. The occassional debris of dead coral was disappointing. Apparently ding dongs of commercial spearfishers are to thank for it. Bravo, homies. You just killed something that takes a year to grow one centimetre.

On another note, the food here is deadly. Definitely not for those seeking a low-cholesterol diet. We’ve been eating bubur ayam religiously, and recently I’ve tried out a few delicacies (some of which you can only get in Makassar), including pisang ijo, pisang epe, susu telur madu jahe, and nasi kuning.

I leave you on a few notes as I hit the hay: congrats, Man. United; my cheeks resemble a shelless lobster (ROSEY, not red – there’s a difference); and I’ma hit up the market tomorrow.

Here’s some links to the awesome food/drinks I’ve been feasting on:

Mahalo, Singapore

What an awesome way to be introduced to this adventure I’m about to embark on. Singapore’s incredibly friendly culture has provided a perfect window to start my trek. Although I don’t feel like I’m in Singapore right now (if you’re Asian and you’re in the departure area, you’re a minority. This place is infested with Aussies. Crickey! Furthermore, I just got a sandwich from Subway and Rihanna is playing over the speakers), I still got a good chunk of the city during my 2 day layover.

I thought I was going to head down to Jakarta yesterday actually. Took the MRT all the way to the airport only to find out that it was January 31st – not February 1st. I got the whole concept of Asia being a day ahead ass-backwards. My bad. Luckily, after befriending one of the staff at the hostel, I gave him a ring, blubbering about my stupidity, and managed to reserve a bed. Thanks, Nicky.

Unlike the first night, when I was rooming solo, I shared the dorm with two other ladies. One from Thailand and the other from the motherland, Indonesia. The girl from Thailand told me about “Songkran” a week-long festival that happens every April in various cities in Thailand. It’s some sort of New Years Day celebration, and she emphasized the fact that everyone has water guns, and that there’s a whole lot of bombarding each other with good ol’ H2O. Can’t complain. Apparently April is one of the hottest months there.

On another note, my taxi driver that drove me on the first night to the hostel was the coolest lad. A simply smashing conversation we had indeed. He was talking about the importance in education, and how in Singapore people take it very seriously, regardless of how difficult it is. Kudos to all you Singaporeans. This dude, however, dropped out of school when he was just 8 years young. I wouldn’t have guessed it though: super skilled in linguistics (fluent in English via taxi driving; Malay from doing business in Indonesia). He even gave my props for my Indonesian. Sweet! I don’t sound like a typewriter, after all.

And on a final note, I just want to say the bathrooms in the airport are crazy gorgeous. I really want to take some photos of them, but would I look like a pervert? I don’t know. But I don’t want to take a chance. Let’s just say I feel like a king on a throne when I’m taking a piss. Too descriptive? I don’t care – I drink water, get over it.

Mahalo, Singapore. See you in 3 months.