#57 – Yogyakarta, Indonesia

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So on the record, I officially have the worst track record of posting … posts.  For that, I have no excuse but a good chuckle, and a rub of my belly, I mean abs… I mean ab.  Those who are wondering, I am still quite alive.  Here I am getting to some posting after a long time.  Above is a picture of the Water Castle or Taman Sari.

The next destination off the list in Indonesia was Yogayakarta in Central Java.  It is most commonly pronounced and unofficially spelled as Jogjakarta or simply as ‘Jogja’.  I was quite excited to reach the city of Jogja after hearing many great things from friends who have been and loved it.  Jogja currently acts as a gateway for the well known attraction Borobudur and Prambanan (what I really wanted to see; in the next post) but also retains a lot of overlooked culture and nice places to visit, which I am glad to have spent time on.

The history of Jogja was an important part of Indonesia as the city acted as the revolutionary capital city of the republic from 1946 to 1949 when Jakarta was still occupied by the Dutch during the Indonesian War of Independence.  Thus, many buildings and sights in Jogja have a lot of royal or culture significance in Indonesian history.  Now, the city is a very good representation of the Indo-Art and Culture scene with a well established and vibrant community of art, food and life all across the region.  Jogja actually rests on a very seismically active fault that often is subject to earthquakes and nearby volcanic activity.  The last big earthquake was May 2006 (6000 casualties), and the last volcano to erupt nearby lasted for 2 months in October 2010 (353 casualties).  So, check the news before you go.

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#56 – Jakarta, Indonesia

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It’s really been a long time since I’ve written my last post.  I have started and probably unknowingly forgotten many valuable details.  I guess I’m the one to blame… sorry!!! Haha.  Anyways, I don’t know why I came up with needing or wanting to write one now, but this is what I recall from the beginning of my Indonesian adventure!

Indonesia is the largest country in South East Asia comprising of over 18,000 islands with over 6,000 of them uninhabited.  This makes Indonesia the largest archipelago in the world and the 4th most populous country in the world only after China, India, and the US.  This I did not know! Crrrazy.

Indonesia has had a complicated and turbulent past that was quite a hurdle to read not speaking of even trying to sum it up and blog about.  Instead, I’ll breeze through a basic summary, lol.  “Modern” Indonesia is thought to have been originated by those who came from Taiwan (who would have thought!) in 2500-1500 BC.  Much later, the Dutch, British and Japanese have also spent time conquering and ruling certain parts of Indonesia.  Due to the mish-mash of cultures and political rulers, several dominant religions were also adopted by the people in Indonesia including Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, and the now most dominant taking about 80-90% of Indonesia, Islam.  Now, the most populous ethnic group is Javanese.

Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta (on the most populous island of Java), was from what I’ve heard a relatively unexciting version of the already plain Kuala Lumpur (not my words).  Though I have to partially agree that KL lacked some lustre, Jakarta turned out to take the crown as one of the most ‘plain’ cities in South East Asia.

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#55 – Diving for PADI – Ko Tao, Thailand

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Ko Tao is literally a divers paradise located in the Gulf of Thailand along with Ko Samui (tourist central, as mentioned before) and Ko Pang’an (The infamous Full Moon Party island) working as a triple threat of Thai archipelago.  Ko Tao otherwise translated to English as Turtle Island is world renowned for diving.  Actually, it is the cheapest with the highest number of certified PADI divers year after year in the world.  Of course, on my way back to Bangkok, I couldn’t have let this chance pass up to give it my try in diving.  The thing about diving was that no matter your age, or for the most part… physical condition, most people can and with ease dive at their own pace.  The only thing that left me worried was how my ears would respond to the water pressure as it is known to be one of the major obstacles in preventing people from diving deep at all.  Regardless, it was worth a shot and why not do all or nothing by getting my PADI Open Water Diving Licence.

I knew prior to leaving Canada, that diving was something I really wanted to try to see if it was something for me.  With the world being over 70% covered in water, if I really wanted to see the world, this was one way to see an important part of it, the underwater world.

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#54 – The Culture – Malacca, Malaysia (Part 2)

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Christ Church Melaka 1753.

Malacca was founded by the Last Raja of Singapura (Singapore) aka. Parameswara in the late 1300s-1400s.  Then later came a series of powers which either exchanged hands at Malacca or was a vital ally in which fortifications and influences were in full effect throughout the city.  From the Portuguese, to the Dutch, to the British, and of course the Malay and Chinese, all saw the port city as a crucial city to maintain control.  However, because of this, the city saw many attacks and only remnants of each culture remain in what seems like a conglomerate mix bag of a city.  Nevertheless, it was not a bad thing as walking through Malacca gave you essentially, a little bit of everything.

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#53 – The Fatty – Malacca, Malaysia (Part 1)

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The next World Heritage City I visited was Malacca (known as in the West, and spelled Melaka in Malaysian).  The first time around Malaysia I had only briefly considered a stop here as my research fell short of producing anything I thought at the time was worthwhile.  To my neglect, I was wrong and Malacca definitely well deserved its place in Malaysia’s long list of places to go.

The heritage area of Jonker and Heeren Streets highlight the best antique shops, street food, architecture and culture that Malacca has to offer.  The side streets that run adjacent to Jonker also house many of the city’s cultural museums where you can properly learn about the history of the city.  The Tourist Market is held every Friday, Saturday and Sunday where people from all over Malaysia come and crowd together and walk through Jonker to experience the eclectic tastes, sounds and smells of Malacca.

Convinced by Ellie and driven from Thailand to do a visa run, I wanted to make Malaysia part 2 to make sense and not revisit the places I’ve already been to.  Since it was so close and easy to get to after Borneo, I went straight there after returning to KL.

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#52 – Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia

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Initially landed in Kota Kinabalu (commonly referred to as just KK) prior to the Mt. Kinabalu climb, and upon returning to the capital of Sabah I had the chance to explore it for a few days and rest my legs.

Sabah is essentially the gateway to East Malaysia and slowly becoming a tourist hotspot being close to several islands and just a stone’s throw away to lush tropical rainforests and obviously, Mt. Kinabalu + park.  With a year round average temperature of 22C-32C (so bomb) and adjacent to the South China Sea, I felt that Borneo had so much more to offer than what I had allocated it for and it definitely feels like a place I can return to explore more.

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#51 – Mt. Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia

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Mt. Kinabalu (UNESCO World Heritage Site, 2000) is in Kinabalu National Park located on the island of Borneo in the state of Sabah belonging to East Malaysia!  I haven’t ever heard of Mount Kinabalu, nor was I planning to visit East Malaysia at all.  However, I had been very intrigued since hearing and seeing pictures about this trek from my friend Bonnie whom I met in Cambodia. So, holding the title as the highest accessible peak in the South East Asia region, I looked a little bit into the climb, and decided to attempt it!

After taking some advice from some friends, there were a few places I seemed to have missed the last time I went through Malaysia, and although I don’t usually revisit a country unless of something special, this was really worth it.  My next destination… and visa run was basically set!

Standing at 4095.2 meters or (13435.7 feet), Mt. Kinabalu challenges you to face an approximate 8.5 kilometer trek, hike, scramble over the course of 2 days.  Of course, professionals can do it over a few hours… I’m an old man (but look 18, hair flip) so… I’ll take it easy and let others show off. =D

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