Friday, May 31, 2013

Trowulan, the Pride of Jawa

Going to Trowulan was not on my initial itinerary during my Jawa Trip last year, but it was slotted in after much tantalizing promotion from a local of Jombang who lives just an hour away from Trowulan. My travel-mate named "rugged mom" was 5 months pregnant and we just went to Bromo and toured around Surabaya. We had the whole Sunday free and was open to anything.

So it was set, my friend and I will board a bus to Trowulan from Surabaya and then we'll rent a car (since there'll be the three of us, including my local Jombang friend who'll be our tour guide). It seemed a perfect plan at that moment.

But things didn't go as planned.

My pregnant travel-mate at that time suddenly had the urge to go to Malang and I had to go to Trowulan by myself. I almost panicked at the thought! Haha.

To note, the trip to Trowulan gave me many "first experiences" which later helped me adapt and become more comfortable in later trips. Around 11 am I headed to Purabaya Bus Station situated at the outskirts of Surabaya with Rugged Mom. We managed to board an all women bus to reach there. That was something! Hehe.

Later at Purabaya, we parted ways. She to Malang and me to Trowulan. There really wasn't a bus that will bring me directly to Trowulan. I had to take a bus to Mojokerto/Jombang and stop some where in between. Hoping I'd know where to go down, I kept positive despite deep down I was actually terrified! My seat mate, a guy, was really chatty. He even thought I was Arabic! Say what?  He must have never met an Arabic girl  before.

I went down at a place called "Perambatan Trowulan" where my guide, Alid will pick me up with his motorbike. First experience number one! Riding on the back of a motorbike with a boy!! *gasps* My conservative family would have never allowed this. Errr... =P (On later solo backpacking trips, I continued to ride on motorbikes in Cambodia and other Indoneisa trips as it was the cheapest transportation method.)

Bajang Ratu, the elegant Paduraksa style gate at Trowulan
What is there about Trowulan that I was willing to go there alone? Well, it was the former capital city of the once famous empire of Majapahit with the Hindu/Buddism influence. Covering around 100 square kilometers, it boasts of some monumental remains yet to be compiled onto some plan but still indefinite. The site comprises of temples, tombs and a bathing place, which Alid has brought me to visit that day. If it was a complete complex, I'm sure it would have been as magnificent as Angkor Wat of Cambodia.

But before exploring all of that, we had to eat first. Hehe. So he brought to his favorite place to eat his favorite dish, the Sambal Wader served with rice. Thus making my second 'first experience', which is having some-one outside of Malaysia paying for my meals. =P

Sambal Wader, Alid's favorite food in Trowulan. 
After lunch we went to visit  Bajang Ratu, the elegant Paduraksa style gate at Trowulan as seen in picture number one. Bajang Ratu in Javanese literally means 'dwarf or defect monarch' because according to folk believes, the second Majapahit king named Jayanegara once fell from the gate as a child, causing defects to his body. Thus the gate to the kingdom was named that way. I later noticed that the same architecture design will be found in many Hindu/Buddha ruins around South East Asia! (Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand!)

I wasn't really a narcissist but since Alid was around and always willing to help take photos, I managed to take the picture below with of group of skinny, Javanese girls while visiting the Brahu temple (our third stop for that day.). Oh my, why are they so thin? I'm so envious!

Skinny Javanese girls jumping with fat me. T__T
Brahu temple is the sole surviving structure of what was once a cluster of historic buildings
After Brahu temple, we went to the bathing place locally known as Candi Tikus. It was dry season and the pool was dried up too. Candi Tikus means 'rat temple', which was named that because during the discovery in 1914, the site appeared during the excavation was an active rat-breeding enclosure. Too bad, the complex is no longer complete. If it was, there'll be terraced foundations upon which would have rested a concentric arrangement of 'turrets' surrounding the highest peak of the building, supposedly to mimic Mount Mahameru. (And so what I've read on wikipedia. Hehe)
The dried up Candi Tikus. It reminded me of Tirta Empul in Bali! 
After climbing in and out of Candi Tikus, we headed to a Buddhist center called Maha Vihara Mojopahit. I get to visit Indonesia's largest sleeping Buddha, also notably known as the THIRD largest sleeping buddha in the world after the one in Bangkok and Nepal.

But what intrigued me the most was the miniature Borobudur found at this center.

Miniature Borobudur. Damn, I have yet t o visit the real thing in Yogyakarta! 
I think we made a pit stop to some royal cemetery but I'll blog about that later. Haha. So let's go to the last stop for the day. The Wringin Lawang, the gate at Trowulan which in Javanese also means 'The Banyan Tree Gate'. Some historians believed that it was the gate to the residence of the famous Mahapahit leader, Gajah Mada.

Wringin Lawang, this typical Majapahit structure is known to be gateways to important compounds of an empire.
While we were there, we watched as camera crew were busy shooting a children's musical program. I got to portrait one girl with her thick make-up on. She had very big eyes! 

A pretty Javanese girl being prepped by her parents for a musical clip at Wringin Lawang.
We had to wait for the crew to clear the area before we could actually take a clear picture in front of the gate. The camera-man didn't really had the whole Wringin Lawang structure in the picture which made Alid a bit furious. Haha. But I liked the picture anyway. ^__^

Say hello to my Trowulan tour guide, Mr Alid from Jombang. The first guy that I've ever rode a motorbike with. 
It was almost 4 pm when we decided to end the tour. I had to hail a bus from the highway to get back to Surabaya. Alid was very helpful in hailing a bus for me despite him having long-sightedness which resulted in him hailing the wrong bus. Hahaha. He still refuses to wear spectacles. Ishhh.

So guys, if ever you're interested to know the history of Majapahit in Indonesia and visit their ruins, do give Alid a call. He'll gladly show you around! Thanks Alid by the way for the tour! 

Footnote : In October 2009 Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Indonesia submitted Trowulan as UNESCO World Heritage list..

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Sunset at Manila Bay and the Naughty Taxi Driver

After the museum, halal lunch and buying stamps for my postcards, I decided to head to the coast for some sunset viewing. I opted for a taxi because it was faster and avoided jeepneys for the rest of the trip. Haha. Damn, I should have brought a map of the city.

Sorry Jeepneys, will use you the next time around. :)
When you think of Philippines you'll think of Jeepney, the most popular public transportation there. A word that combines "jeep" with "jitney", a small bus that carries around passengers on a regular route (this I must master before using jeepneys) and works without a schedule but there is always plenty of them around. It is also the cheapest mode of transport around the city besides the LRT of course. Jeepneys were originally made from US military jeeps that were left around from World War 2. How cool is that?

OK, avoiding jeepneys since I didn't know the routes, I took the first taxi, hopefully thinking he'd bring me to Manila bay. I was wrong.

He brought me to the wrong destination. He brought me to Ocean Park Manila Bay instead. I thought of entering but the tickets were a tad too expensive for my limited budget. So I took another taxi to my preferred destination. Pfft! ( I wonder what info I've given wrongly to the previous driver? Language barrier was one of the problems, I guess. Le sigh)

At least the second driver brought me to the correct destination. Welcome to the not-so-happening Manila Bay! And so I thought.

The quiet, peaceful bay of Manila. I actually expected hordes of people on a weekend like this day.
I was a bit surprised to see that not many people were out during that beautiful day. Where did all the good people of Manila went?

Maybe it's because it was the middle of the month and everyone preferred to stay at home? Good for me, then. :)

The almost empty roads of Manila Bay. 
Maybe they went to another bay? I'm getting confused here. Hahahaha. I went to find a place to sit and buried myself behind a book. Some locals who sat beside me tried to start a conversation with me but it was in Tagalog. I didn't understand a word! Haha. Later they told me I look like a local and didn't expect that I was a foreigner. Awww.

Rays of sun starting to glow orangey red in the sky and onto the buildings around us.
And the sun finally went down. I saw ships in the distance.
I headed back through a shopping mall called SM Shopping Mall and chanced upon a marching drummers' band on the way.
It was captivating to watch them dance and beat up some music. 
It was getting dark and I hailed a taxi after watching the marching boys' performance end. When I got into the taxi, I was greeted with a smiling guy who talked a lot. Guys who always plays with their hair kinda annoyed me and this is what this guy kept doing. Haha.

Besides that he asked a lot of personal questions which I'd love to avoid. I even made up a story that I was going to wed soon. He asked with whom, and I answered with my Indonesian boyfriend. (It suddenly came up! His question caught me off guard!) The most funny part of the conversation was him saying that Indonesians won't make good husbands. It's far better to find a Filipino guy. And he gave me reasons why.


I didn't dare to ask him who he was referring to. Tried to change the topic a couple of times but it always went back to my "pretend" boyfriend. Aduhh! To make things worst, he knew I was flying back to Malaysia tomorrow and insisted (and I mean it, he INSISTED) to take me to Clark. I told him I had no money and can only afford to go the nearest bus station which was a jeepney away. He insisted to send me there no matter how short the distance. 

Ok fine. I kinda lost my will power to argue further. So the next day, right after I checked out my hostel room, he was already waiting for me outside (15 minutes earlier than the time I initially set). There was no way to escape him. LOL. He got mad when I didn't remember his name (oppss!) since he remembered mine but was kind  enough to send me to some place so that I can shop for souvenirs before boarding the bus. Hehe. For no extra charge.

As I get off from the taxi his parting words were, "Remember my name? Don't you ever forget me". I just nodded.  


Until today I still had difficulties remembering his name. Maybe it was Castro? =P

~end of Manila trip ~ 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

National Museum and a Muslim Family in Manila

After exiting Intramuros, I entered the National Museum. Mostly to escape the heat outside. Haha. But this museum was actually very cool!

National Museum - Pambansang Museo

This museum houses many hand paintings and I could easily visualize how the world was without photography and how people resorted to paintings to depict their lives on canvas. I saw paintings where country girls posed provocatively for the painter and also paintings of landscapes both during sunsets and sunrises.

I assumed in those days many people became painters, artists, drawers and sculptors just to become visual captors like we are now with our cameras and smart hand phones. :)

Oh yeahh.. draw me now! Today she'd say, take a photo of me now. Hehe.
If they had cameras like we do now, wonder what the sunset below would look like?
Paintings were their only way to visualize what they saw. 
Some paintings were also on the nude (which I'm not gonna post it here. haha) and many on family portraits. I guess I spent almost an hour here because the paintings seemed so alive. I tried taking photos of the portraits but failed to capture the "aliveness" of it so decided to not post it here. Huhu. Seriously, the paintings seemed so alive! (This is my second time saying this. Hehe)
A mom dog trying to save her pup. T__T
I actually cried when I looked at this clayed sculpture. The artist must have been grieving when he/she sculpted this. T__T

I exited the museum, hopped on a Jeepney and headed to a shopping mall (which I forgot the name. huhu) to post some postcards I bought from Intramuros.

While walking down a street I accidentally chanced upon a signage which displayed in big letters the words "Lani's Halal Eatery" and I immediately froze in my tracks.

Lani's Halal Eatery

I was like, "OH EM GI!" Hahaha. And immediately praised god and went inside.

I was hungry like hell when I found this part of heaven. :)
They poured a bowl of rice on a plate and I chose two types of dishes with it. I felt like home instantly! As i seated myself down, suddenly the owner's family came out and gathered around me. It felt awkward at first because I had to eat in front of them all. But their warm hospitality easily wiped that feeling away. 
My first Halal meal in Manila. 
The most surprising part was that some of them actually knew how to speak SABAHAN! I got excited and learnt that the aunt there just came back from Sabah after the Lahad Datu case. She lived there for almost TEN years but got scared with the current situation. She dreams of coming back but has to wait for the situation to cool down first. Others shared their stories with me and my lunch time was spent cheerfully. :))

They even advised me to marry a Filipino man. As if I will! LOL.

A Muslim Family in Manila
After exchanging contact numbers and Facebook emails (but I've still yet to add them. haha), we parted ways. They even gave me some tips and pointers on do's and don'ts in Manila. It was overwhelming for them to worry me just because I was cute and traveling alone. (Eh?) But I assured them, I'd be fine. 

I said goodbyes and headed to the post office nearby before heading to my next destination. Later on my next post. Tata!

Monday, May 20, 2013

A Weekend to Manila, Phillippines - Intramuros

After reaching Manila from Clark, I asked around on how to get to my pre-booked hostel located at Makati. This was my first time in town and I didn't quite get the hang of using the Jeepneys around. But after a long while walking and asking men in uniforms (there seem to be a lot of them in Manila), I finally hopped on a non-English speaking jeepney and went off where-ever he told me too.

And no, it did reach my destination.

I got lost. Hahahaha.

I did some reading on where to stay in Manila and opted for the one recommended by blogger Solitary Wanderer at her post here.  The MNL Boutique Hostel. I already paid 10% via online for a female hostel room. Thankfully I had the address so I just kept spirit and kept on asking men in uniform for directions.

An hour later... I finally reached the colorful building with a guard at the door. 

Manila seems to have this system where all the entrances of the buildings are locked and heavily guarded (or simply has a guy keeping watch). I had to show my copy of room reservation to the guy before he unlocked the door for me.

I found it a bit odd. But horeyyyy!! Finally reached a hostel with FREE WI-FI! (nothing else mattered at that point. hehe)

So I recharged myself and replanned my itinerary and this is what I did that day. :)

1. Visited Intramuros, the wall city of Manila

Intramuros was the Spaniards' center of political and religious power back when the Philippines was still a Spanish colony. Even today I've noticed that many of the Philippines have unique Spanish names. Within this walled city is Fort Santiago, the prison where Philippine's National Hero, Jose Rizal spent his last days. And there are also twelve churches for which the most famous are the Manila Cathedral and San Agustin Church.
Being such an important colony back then, there are also hospitals, lodging houses, commercial spaces, universities and even military barracks.

I hired a taxi to get here since the Jeepney transport system became too complicated for me (but a map of the city would've helped which I had none.) And since the city has about seven entrance gates, I had to make sure I came in and out the same gate to avoid getting more lost. Haha.
Fort Santiago - one of the oldest fortifications in Manila. Built in 1571.
I spent almost three hours here. Wandering myself senseless in the hot sun by walking. Spent the most time in Fort Santiago (P 75 per person) and enjoyed the view from the moat which was added later in 1603. I also tried soaking up the history of Jose Rizal last days by visiting his prison cell. Ahh.. scary.  

Within Fort Santiago. See the moat! Beautiful!
Jose's cell room was so spacious! Bigger than the master room at my own rented KL home. Hiks. Eventually, I went out of the fort and set my sights to other buildings within Intramuros.

Manila Cathedral

This is how it looked like before.
And below is how it looks like today. It was destroyed by fire and earth quakes so many times. I'm amazed that the structure still stands today. :)
Manila Cathedral
And somehow I ended inside a Church Museum. It kinda got awkward for me because I was the only person who wore hijab! Haha. But the porcelain dolls depicting Virgin Mary (and so I thought) were beautifully painted, with live hair and elaborate dresses. I was truly awed by the masterpieces shown here but I didn't stay long.
Beautiful religious porcelain dolls. 
After that I wandered some more and there were a lot of Spanish-like buildings around with Spanish names. I didn't enter any of them so I ended up buying some postcards from a shop there and headed out.

So Spanish!
The woman from the shop told me of a National Museum not that far away. It was a walking distance away and I headed there next. So this ends my visit to Intramuros..  to be continued... :)