Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Indonesia - Days 4-5

Sunday, December 12, 2015
8:49 pm

Greetings from the Halim Perdanakusuma International Airport in Jakarta, Indonesia! We are finished with our stay at the Mirah Hotel in Bogor, and are now headed to Yogyakarta, which is ~260 miles to the ESE of Bogor on the island of Java. Bogor is a suburb of Jakarta.

Yesterday, we went and saw the botanical gardens in Bogor. It was fascinating to see so many different types of trees, and although these gardens had nothing on some of the amazing flora I saw in Micronesia when I did a study abroad program there during college, they were amazing nonetheless. 

Unfortunately, I didn't get the names of all the plants and trees, but I took some pictures of those I found particularly beautiful.

Cool roots!

I actually do know the name of the one below - it is "Rattan," a type of palm that has long, light, and strong wooden vine-line branches. These vines are often used for furniture... we have a couch that has armrests made out of rattan!

A rattan palm with its trademark vines

Here is a Pterocarpus indicus Willd. It had extraordinarly broad roots that stretched for several meters (gotta use the metric system here in Indonesia). Our firs in the Pacific Northwest topple so easily in windstorms; I wonder what kind of winds it would take to topple a tree like this, or if it is even possible for it to topple at all.

No botanical garden would be complete without a tree that could unequivocally gore you to death, and we found that in the Pholidocarpus majadum. All palms have spikes at their stems, but the spikes on this palm were particularly noteworthy. Note to all tree-huggers: stay away from Pholidocarpus.

Finally, I saw one more tree that actually reminded me of home. The leaves of Quassica indica Noteboom looked somewhat similar to the laurel hedge that is so present around Seattle. It wasn't a particularly pretty tree (sorry, tree) but still, it reminded me of Seattle, so I had to take a picture of it.

We later came across a stunning orchid greenhouse, which was without a doubt the highlight of our flora adventure. Unfortunately, my camera battery was toast by then.

After seeing much of the botanical garden, we crossed a suspension bridge across a cement canal made for diverting water that falls over the mountains above Bogor out to sea. The mountains above Bogor are exceptionally rainy, and Bogor itself is known as the "rainy city," amassing over 140 inches of rain each year. When we crossed the bridge, it had not started raining in Bogor yet, but it was pouring over the mountains, as evidenced by the torrent of water rushing through the canal.

After we crossed the bridge, we came across a museum with a massive blue whale skeleton. It's easy to take for granted how big whales are, but when you really think about it, it's absolutely stunning how massive these animals can be. When an animal's tongue weighs as much as all 22 football players on the gridiron, you know you are dealing with a truly massive animal.

The museum was filled with all sorts of models of lower-level life forms. Even though I'm a huge fan of marlin, there's no denying that they do not have the brainpower of a blue whale. There were models of amphibians and reptiles as well. Unfortunately, I did not see any live animals or plants.

There were, however, tons of schoolboys and schoolgirls, and wherever we were, they would always flock to us and want to take pictures with us. It was extremely flattering. I know I will be treated more 'regularly' when I go back to Seattle, but hopefully I can take away some confidence knowing that I am a very unique person. I definitely feel very out of place pretty much all the time, but that's one of the attractions of going to a foreign country. If you never took any chances and never went outside of your comfort zone, I think you would be missing out on chances to broaden your worldview and improve your self-esteem. That being said, it really helps that my mom and brother know some Indonesian and that most people speak some English.

Living is very cheap here. A good meal costs 1-2 dollars per person, meaning that four people can eat out and get drinks for less than 10 bucks. The most expensive restaurants are actually foreign chains. There are lots of KFCs, Dunkin' Donuts, and Starbucks scattered throughout the area, and the prices there are far higher than anything at any sit-down restaurant.

Because everything is so cheap here, you don't need much money to survive. Still, many people here are extremely poor. There are many 'becak' drivers roaming the streets looking for work (a becak is like a rickshaw), and they may earn a couple dollars a day, if they are lucky. Some people have rotten teeth (though I think this is mainly due to a lack of emphasis on dental hygiene than being too poor to brush your teeth), there are lots of beggars, there are TONS of street vendors who hardly make any money, and there is just a lot of poverty in general. Municipal tap water is not safe for drinking unless boiled, and there are relatively few social services readily available to the impoverished living in rural areas. Coming here has opened my eyes to just how good we have it here in the United States. I already knew it by looking at statistics on paper, but it's different when you actually experience it through your own eyes.

I had a great experience at the Mirah in Bogor, and I'll have more for you all in my next blog post!


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