While in Cirebon I had a moment of weakness. I would later have another in Malang and some have already busted my chops for that meal at McDonald’s. But this was Cirebon. I never go here at home but now that I am in a far away corner of the world I seem to have the need. Dunkin Donuts to the rescue.
Hey, I’m told they have great coffee!
The coffee and donuts are the same price as back in the US so it’s not hard to figure that I was the only one in there. I was lured in by my need for cool air and wifi. The thought being I could catch up on email; it was ridiculously hot outside.
The kind of heat that saps your energy and makes all your limbs feel limp and in need of a pool with lounge chair. You sweat profusely and your forehead drains salty droplets directly into your eyes. You wipe those away with an equally lubricated hand intensifying the effect of the salt bath you now find yourself in.
I was drenched after a long day of walking.
Unfortunately the Dunkin Donuts staff were taking a siesta. Can’t blame them, the rest of the town was doing likewise.
I do like this town for that very reason, it’s laid back. Especially compared to the last two mega cities I had been in. Jakarta and Bandung both have major traffic problems and to get anywhere takes forever. In Cirebon that’s all pretty easy. So easy in fact that I didn’t once see a taxi. Most of the public transportation is done by becak (rickshaw) or dokar (horse and cart). It’s relatively small so I opted to walk most places and work off some of the rice, fish, and donuts.
This is a town on the coast but you never get to see the water. No one seems to pay this fact any attention and for good reason; there are no beaches.
The city did have quite a few quirky aspects to it. I walked around one night and a guy had a man-made palm tree all dressed up with flickering lights right next to a real one in his front yard.
Another guy followed me down the street trying to sell me a ride to anywhere and kept saying….”is up to you”. No matter what I responded with he would say “is up to you” and then try again. Clearly he thought it was not my decision to make.
I saw a real deer in Cirebon in the front yard of a government administration building. That kind of threw me for a loop and I could not help feeling sorry for it. That then turned into hope that more “tropical” deer lived there and he was not going to grow old alone.
The trip to Cirebon through the mountains was gorgeous. It reminded me a lot of Bali with the tiered rice fields and general lushness of it all. Windy roads and the over-zealous driving you would expect accompanied every hairpin.
I liked Cirebon a lot. A little strange but that gave it character, a little laid back, but that was a nice change of pace, bad donuts…but that’s OK, I mean who comes to Indonesia for the donuts!
One of the things I have always found amusing when in Asia is just how readily people give you directions somewhere when they have no idea where it is that you’re heading. I have read that in a lot of countries and cultures it’s all about never saying “No” or admitting that you don’t know. It’s deemed as impolite because as with most of us, we all just want to help out and how can you help if you say you don’t know the answer. It’s better to try to help out.
Even if you’re wrong, how bad could it be?
For many Indonesians history starts in 1949 and whatever happened prior to that is of little or no importance. That’s a generalization of course but as you wander around talking to people or take a taxi somewhere you think is historically important you quickly find out that your perspective on history is not always held by the mainstream.
In Semarang, as in other cities, I made a point of visiting the Ereveld War Cemeteries. Semarang’s is Kalibanteng and is the resting place of over 3,000 civilian men, women, and children who died in POW camps. I had discovered during my visit that many places I deemed important historical sites were not so important to the Indonesian populace.
However that didn’t stop folks from giving me directions.
Kalibanteng is a few miles out from the city center. I boarded a bemo and made my way to what I thought was the general vicinity. My map was a tattered one and I wasn’t sure if it was to scale. What looked like the general area might well involve some more mileage.
On the corner where I disembarked was an army base. I figured if I was in the right area at least they would have an idea in which direction to head.
Sure enough, they did!
With guns slung across their backs, cigarettes smoldering, they looked at my map, turned it sideways, upside own, sat on the fence discussing it, and when a consensus was established they pointed me in a direction and sent me on my way. Two street over and to my right.
I walked down the street.
It was the middle of the day, hot, dusty, and chaotic. It didn’t appear that this would be a likely venue for a place of mourning and remembrance since both sides of the street were lined with shops. I trusted these guys with guns.
They lived there, worked there, they had to have a better idea than me.
One of the shops was a travel agency, well, more of a transport agent. You know the little stalls that sell you a ticket for a bus to get you to another town. They did have posters of the Greek Islands and Italy’s Amalfi Coast on the walls so they had credibility, no?
The main guy in the stall was very friendly and knew exactly where my destination was. I was on the right street, all I needed to do was get on the right bus. Head straight down the road for 10km…10km, you’ve got to be kidding.
The map said it should be right here!
He flagged the bus down. I piled on, he told them where I was headed and off we went. My gut was not feeling it. We traveled about 1km when the bus took a dramatic left turn and headed down a bumpy lane into a village.
It wasn’t stopping.
It just kept on trucking and as city turned into country, major streets into dusty tracks, congestion into open fields, I kind of figured I would listen to my gut. With a bang on the roof (that’s what the locals do) my ride stopped, I paid and jumped off. I was getting a lot of stares at this point. What’s this crazy foreigner doing out here? Where’s he heading to? He’s lost…should we give him directions. Those kinds of stares.
I backtracked to the main road and headed in the direction of the travel agency. After a while I could see it. All the buses were converging outside in a big chaotic sea of black smoke and noise.
I was walking on the opposite side of the street just because it was cooler. The street on this side had become lined with trees; it was a much more pleasant side than the other. The sidewalk was looked after and the tall concrete fence added even more shade.
I walked along for a few minutes. I was within two hundred yards of being opposite my starting point when I came to a gate. When you come to a gate you often look in so I did.
What was there?
You guessed it. Opposite my man the travel agent was the Kalibanteng entrance!
For photos of Indonesia click here.