“What the actual fuck,” I said out loud while standing on the side of the road with no sidewalk waiting for the train to pass – a train straight out of Darjeeling Unlimited, in the light of the bright red sun in the hazy sky. “This is the travel you wanted,” Jordan said. And I know it. I just have a hard time expressing it sometimes…
Java is a land of colors. You see it in the hijabs on the women, the paint on the houses and cars and trains. The umbrellas in the market. The bags of goldfish being sold on the street like they are at a state fair at home. There are birdcages of every color with birds inside that look like they are straight out of a comic book with neon colors and cartoon eyes.
The people smiley and say “Halo!” all the time. I’ve been stopped so many times for a picture with a local. Why haven’t I seen more travelers here is beyond me. I love Java, even more than Bali. Yes, the tourists get ripped off. We pay more to eat or for entrance fees to parks and attractions. But this is common everywhere I’ve been in South East Asia. And the people of Java will go out of their way to help you, feed you or make you feel welcome.
In Java there is little tourism from the rest of the world, unless you are visiting one of the UNESCO sites or in Jakarta. Javanese, however, travel their own country fervently. This means there were very few English speakers while we were in Java, although there were enough to get by just fine. We met many Javanese who had worked a stint doing house keeping on cruise ships and their English and world knowledge was great.
I absolutely love it here in this magical place. Yes, they burn their trash and it’s dirty with liter. Yes, tobacco is a huge industry here and everyone smokes. It’s hot and the call to prayer can be too much sometimes. The air is dirty, smoggy and the sunsets and sunrises are red. A big, beautiful, shocking ball of red straight out of a Wes Anderson movie. No one drinks out of a coconut here even though they should be, the place is littered with them. That’s something for the tourists. The majority of women I see are Muslim, but I know there are more religions here, and they all seem to live in harmony and a happy acceptance.
Radeh, our Javanese friend from our hike up Mt. Merbabu, explained that there are 147 languages in Java alone. And so many words for rice! You will speak a different language with your grandma, your friends, at work etc.
Indonesia seems so vast and each island so different from each other. From Bali to Ache in Sumatra where beheading under Sharia law just became legal. I could live a year in Indonesia and never fully come to understand it.