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