Traf­fic, tem­ples and fly­ing foxes: A rev­e­la­tory two-week jour­ney through In­done­sia.

The Washington Post Sunday - - TRAVEL -

Our read­ers share tales of their ram­bles around the world.

Who: Our fam­ily: Ann Heller­stein (the au­thor), Sa­muel Belkin and Me­lanie Belkin, all of Rockville; Daniel Belkin of Pasadena, Calif.; and Mitchell Belkin, for­merly of Ban­jar­masin, South Kal­i­man­tan, In­done­sia.

Where, when, why: Our fam­ily took a two-week trip to In­done­sia in June to visit my son, who had spent the past nine months teach­ing English at a high school in Ban­jar­masin. We were ex­cited to ex­plore sev­eral lo­ca­tions in In­done­sia, and we vis­ited Jakarta (the cap­i­tal) and Yogyakarta, both on the is­land of Java, as well as Labuan Bajo, and Ubud and Nusa Dua, both on the is­land of Bali.

High­lights and high points: Each lo­ca­tion we vis­ited in In­done­sia was a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence, and we had a glimpse of only a cou­ple out of the more than 17,500 is­lands. Jakarta was a sea of hu­man­ity with its 10 mil­lion peo­ple. Yogyakarta is a col­lege town known for batik and the amaz­ing 9th-cen­tury Pram­banan Hindu tem­ple. Labuan Bajo is less pop­u­lous and more bar­ren, with ocean ac­cess to Rinca Is­land, where we could glimpse gi­ant ko­modo dragons ly­ing around in the af­ter­noon sun. Ubud is spe­cial

be­cause it has a moun­tain­ous re­gion, an artists’ co­op­er­a­tive and a mon­key sanc­tu­ary and is the home of kopi luwak cof­fee. Nusa Dua is a clas­sic Bali beach com­mu­nity. Each was a breath­tak­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Cul­tural con­nec­tion or dis­con­nect: We trav­eled thou­sands of miles and landed in Jakarta. The traf­fic is hor­ren­dous — much worse than any­thing I have ex­pe­ri­enced in the United States. It takes an hour to drive a short dis­tance be­cause masses of cars are grid­locked, and en­tire fam­i­lies on mo­tor­bikes are whizzing around. We asked some­one to show us what lo­cal peo­ple do for fun. We got into a cab and drove an hour to end up at the Plaza shop­ping cen­ter. Ap­par­ently, shop­ping malls are the place to go to so­cial­ize or hang out.

Big­gest laugh or cry: My son de­cided that we needed to taste the many fruits of In­done­sia — in­clud­ing sev­eral dif­fer­ent types of man­goes and five types of bananas. We also tasted the Queen of Fruit (man­gos­teen) and the King of Fruit (durian). Man­gos­teens are small and round pur­ple fruits (ap­prox­i­mately the size and shape of an ap­ple) with a col­lec­tion of soft white sec­tions in­side that are sweet. Each bite makes one crave more and more.

Durian is an al­to­gether dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence. It is ap­prox­i­mately the size of a pineap­ple, with sharp thorns and a hor­rific odor that has been de­scribed as sweaty socks, tur­pen­tine or rot­ten onions. The in­side is yel­low, creamy and re­port­edly sweet (if you can move past the aw­ful smell, which I couldn’t, even when I was hold­ing my nose while con­sum­ing the fruit). Ap­par­ently, it’s an ac­quired taste. I cer­tainly didn’t ac­quire it!

How un­ex­pected: We had the amaz­ing op­por­tu­nity to ob­serve sunset at a man­grove is­land where one can ob­serve thou­sands of Ka­long Is­land fly­ing foxes cross­ing over to the is­land of Flores, where they feast on fruits all night and re­turn at dawn. It was an in­cred­i­ble ex­pe­ri­ence.

Fond­est me­mento or mem­ory: In­done­sia is an amaz­ing coun­try. I re­turned home with an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the im­por­tance of in­cor­po­rat­ing a va­ri­ety of ex­pe­ri­ences (nat­u­ral, cul­tural, and his­tor­i­cal) when vis­it­ing any new place. To tell us about your own trip, go to wash­ing­ton­ and fill out the What a Trip form with your fond­est mem­o­ries, finest mo­ments and fa­vorite photos.


From left: Daniel, Me­lanie andMitchell Belkin pre­pare to take the plunge with the in­fa­mous fruit durian, cen­ter, at a gro­cery store. The Belkin fam­ily ven­tured to In­done­sia to vis­it­Mitchell.

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