A Travellerspoint blog

Some Things Are Never Easy

No matter how far you go

My wife and I had made a plan after seeing Borobudur and Prambanan temples on the Thursday, that we would upgrade our room to one with a shower for Friday night. Included with this plan, was the idea to buy a package that consisted of a Saturday morning mini bus to Mt. Bromo, a room at Cafe Lava guest house, a wake up call for 3:00 a.m. where, consequently, we'd hike up to the top of the mountain to watch the sun rise over the Mt. Bromo's dormant volcanoe at 6:00 a.m. After our descent and breakfast, we'd be put on a chartered bus taking us to the island of Bali, specifically the town of Lovina where it has beaches of not white, but midnight black sand and waves, allegedly, perfect for beginner surfers. This was going to cost us roughly, $35 CDN each.

Having all of friday with no plans, Jennie and I decided to sign up for a silversmithing course in a community completely devoted to silversmiths and their beautiful homes. This idea seemed to fit us perfectly due to the decision we made to leave our wedding rings in Canada. We were afraid of them getting stolen or losing them in the sand or while snorkelling. I was afraid of attracting scads of women if I were to fail to wear my ring, but Jennie assured me it wasn't a problem. At all.

So with this grand idea of somehow pouring scalding, liquid silver on my face (because that is the most probable outcome) we set off by taxi (taksi) to another neighbourhood of Jogyjakarta to sign up.

Then, idling at a red light in a comfortable air conditioned cab, counting bills in my head, calculating costs, playing with my brand new video camera, watching Jennie play with her digital SLR, it happened.

First I watched an old man start at the first car, they were stopped like us at the red light. He was holding out his arms to the drivers window (right hand drive vehicles). His elbows and wrists barely extended but his disabled fingers couldn't. I assumed at least arthritis but it had punished and invaded his entire body without compassion. The tinted window of the vehicle lowered and an immature, indefectable arm extended out, holding a few coins. With comparative precision, the young hand stretched, without pain, and slid the coins between the old mans contorted knuckles. He tried more than twice at least, while hobbling to the next car window to slide the coins into his pocket. His face was submissive and he wasn't even frustrated that his fingers weren't doing as they were told, so he used his lips instead.

The next car was the same, and so was the next.

He made his way to my window and, pathetically, I bowed my head. I pretended that my video camera had a problem and that that problem was more important and was owed more attention than his. I didn't look at Jennie, I couldn't. All I could think was, damn man, you are a gutless prick.

I kept my head down, and only lifted it because of a sound on my window. The man had passed, I thought, I had watched him move onto the next car down the line. I looked out the window and a face looked back at me. Not the old man's face of which was wrinkled and leathered; but both had the same eyes.

These eyes were young, not old like the last, but they possessed the same look of surrender. I studied them and they studied me. They were large and intensely brown. Around the eyelids had already began to form wrinkles and caught in these wrinkles was a yellow colored crust. I told myself they weren't dried tears, and I hope I still beleive it. I was frozen. The boys eyes haunted me instantly. I looked at his hands and they were cupped together, bowl shaped, resting just beneath his chin. I looked back to his eyes and they terrified me. My fingers twitched as they held my camera and I fought the urge to be gutless again. I told myself that I'd better make a decision and I'd better stick to it, whatever the decision may be. He called out in Bahasa and my throat tightened and my body found a way to sweat in my comfortable air conditioned taxi. As I sat up, looked down at my bag to find my wallet the light turned green and the cab began to pull away. We drove through the intersection and around the corner. With every metre we drove I hoped that the boys image would fade.

I doubt that's going to happen no matter how far I drive.

Posted by CRBackman 23:48 Archived in Indonesia Tagged disabilities Comments (0)

Bitter-Sweet Day

It started out well


Jennie and I walked into an information centre to research how, when and the cost, etcetera, of getting to see Borobudur and Prambanan monuments (both are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.) As it turns out, we left having booked an entire tour dedicated to both sites in one day for 350,000 Indonesian Rupiahs ($38 CDN) that started at 4:45 a.m. the following morning.

Borobudur is a ninth-century Buddhist monument just outside of Yogyakarta, Central Java, Indonesia. The monument comprises six square platforms topped by three circular platforms, and is decorated with 2,672 gorgeous relief panels constructed in the faces of sandstone blocks. It also has 504 Buddha statues that sit with perfect posture and stare out from the monument. A main dome, located at the center of the top platform, is surrounded by 72 Buddha statues seated inside perforated stupa, except one where the stupa itself is missing but the buddha remains perfectly intact, less some fingers (the stupa, I assume, became damaged or completely collapsed during the 2006 earthquakes.) During the journey to the top, the monument guides people through a system of stairways and corridors with 1,460 narrative relief panels on the wall and the balustrades. Easily the most stunning structure that Java, if not the entirety of Indonesia, has to offer. Borobudur is Indonesia's single most visited tourist attraction, and when you see it, there's no question why. Our arrival to the site at 5:45 a.m. to see the sun rise over the shrine was worth the admission price.

It humbled even me, a person with no affection toward any religion, to see such a monument.

Next on our tour was Prambanan. Prambanan is the largest Hindu temple compound in Central Java, Indonesia, located approximately 18 km east of Yogyakarta. It was built around 850 CE and unknowingly, not long after its construction the temple was abandoned and began to deteriorate. Reconstruction of the compound began in 1918. The main building was completed in around 1953. It is characterised by its tall and pointed architecture, typical of Hindu temple design, and also by the 47m high central building inside a large complex of individual temples. Sadly, it was heavily damaged during the earthquakes that temporarily crippled Indonesia in 2006. Prambanan, however, did not fare nearly as well during the quakes as Borobudur and unfortunately, was not as accessable to the public as its religious-testament-counterpart. The damage, even after years of restoration, was still clearly evident. The area was littered with large chunks of stone debris that had fallen to the ground and oddly enough, some remained intact. Despite its battle with the elements and the results of such, Prambanan still holds some unbeleivably detailed and unharmed releifs and frescoes that are equally as humbling as Borobudur's.

Our journey home at mid afternoon was slow and tiresome, as to be expected when 894 trillion people are driving in no particular direction, with no particular pupose and with no particular rules of the road. I assume the attempt to pass a bill regarding road rules and safety went something likes this;

Santoso wanted to pass a bill to implement laws for the driving of vehicles on Indonesian roads. Budi was a fucking psychopath who liked to drive like an asshole. Budi then, realizing he was out of toilet paper, wiped his ass with the proposed bill*. The End.

Side Note: It is rumored that Lisa Wallace is a direct descendant of Budi the Driver. Calculations are forthcoming.

After some interesting techniques and amazingly enough, no maiming or deaths, Jennie and I were dropped off at the end of the street for our guest house. As we walked and tried to avoid what looked to be a crowd of toothless on-their-way-to-being-drunk perv's (or as I like to call them TOTWTBDP's), one of them yelled out something about seeing Bromo the following day. Jennie gave them a quick answer and we continued on our way. As we reached the front door of our guest house, one of the younger species rambled and struggled through a sentence.

Then awkward staring ensued.

First the TOTWTBDP and I stared at each other, then he stared at me, then Jennie and I stared at each other, then he stared at my wife's breasts, then, obviously thinking it was a fantastic idea because it truly was, I stared at my wife's breasts. Then the TOTWTBDP stared through me in a drunken haze. Then in almost perfect english he said, "I hab full room, you must leabe. If you need, you leabe your bag here and find other place to stay. Odda peoples book and I full now. You can't stay here. Solly Sir."

What I wanted my reply to be was "fucking rights dickmonkey, you are full because I currently occupy a room." Then I would've proceeded to flex my biceps or my calfs. I hear if you flex your calfs its the most scary to your opponent in what could be a physical altercation.

What I actually replied was, "Yeah I understand. It's okay. We'll just get our things and go." Then I sulked and pouted+. It was truly pathetic.

We gathered our things, packed our bags, hoisted them onto our shoulders, adjusted the straps and started off. I was pissed from the start. We checked guest house after guest house and every single room was full. Not 'some were unsatisfactory and some were full.' All were full. The 'inherited pissed off vein' emerged out of my forehead like a bulging garden hose and I didn't see a possible remedy this time. I breathed deeply and it helped, checked out my wife and that helped too but I was still over-the-top annoyed. It was nobody's fault an that's partly what made it so irritating to me. Finally, after trekking through hordes of creepers and full signs for what felt like a thousand years we found two available rooms. One was clean with a hot shower but ridiculously overpriced, the other was extremely cheap and its cleanliness was comparable with its price. It also had no attached bathroom, but rather a shared one. Not uncommon here and generally, not an issue either. This shared bathroom however, has no shower. Issue.

So we took the one with no shower.

My decision, because I'm a cheap ass and apparently I enjoy the smell of my own rancid B.O. So for a third time in 3 weeks I'm going to have the sickening scent of a 100 stray cats. Yes, 3 more came to join the party.

  • understand that Indonesians don't use TP they use a water hose system that feels like innappropriate touching but it's my story I can tell it how I want.

+TM, trademarked by Taylor Backman.

Posted by CRBackman 00:48 Archived in Indonesia Tagged backpacking Comments (2)


...my ass.


Transport or transportation;

Is the movement of people and goods from one place to another. The term is derived from the Latin trans ("across") and portare ("to carry"). Industries which have the business of providing transport equipment, transport services or transport are important in most national economies, and are referred to as transport industries.

The field can be divided into infrastructure, vehicles, and operations.

Infrastructure consists of the fixed installations necessary for transport, and may be roads, railways, airways, waterways, canals and pipelines or terminals such as airports, railway stations, bus stations and seaports. Vehicles traveling on the network include automobiles, bicycles, buses, trains, people and aircraft.

Operations deal with the way the vehicles are operated, and the procedures set for this purpose including the financing, legalities and policies.

Indonesia does not have a transport industry. Indonesia has none of the above except for the transport vehicle called people. The Republic of Indonesia, in 2006 in fact, had approximately 222 million people. It is now 2008, so with my calclations Indonesia's population is somewhere around 894 Trillion, give or take a handful. My calculations are based apon how many people I saw here with children. Here, children have children. Children are newly awarded grandparents at the age of 9. My calculations have also led me to beleive that women here get pregnant by getting looked at. I say this so that you may be aware why I have gouged out my eyeballs next time we meet. I'll be okay, if Julio San-Chen can drive drunk he can surely guide me around; my seeing-eye monkey. Except I always seem to be led to liquor stores and prostitutes. He's got some addictions. With women (children) here having so many children (slightly younger children) it is my assumption that women (children) in Indonesia have a gestation period of 13 minutes. Exact calculations on this will be forthcoming. Futhermore, people here never die. Ever. On our way to the internet place, Jennie and I came across a woman (zombie) who, by my best guesstimate, was in the vicinity of 1000 years old. Poor thing looked to be having a mid-life crisis. This, my faithful readers, is why the population is so high.

The plane leaving Bangkok at 3 a.m. was fast, arrived early, and was generally a pleasant ride. I sat an entire seat away from Jennie so that she couldn't hurt me when we took off. This fight does fall under the category of transportation, obviously, but for Thailand, not Indonesia. Indonesia is a bumblefuck of transport. A superbly unorchestrated mash. The bus from the airport "that arrives every half hour" arrived one hour after we began waiting for it to show. The bus that "takes one hour to get to Gambir train sation" pulled in after 2 hours. The train station itself was a mess of humans. People here just walk, no particular direction or purpose and every single local in Jakarta, Indonesia felt it necessary to stare at us. Usually at the things rested on Jennie's chest. Some who weren't awe struck were very pleasant and usually cheered on by their friends to come strike up a simple conversation to practice their english.

Our train was to leave at 21:15 and I can't express how absolutely brutal it is to wait for your train from 11:15 until 21:15 in this particular country; city; train station. My only "entertainment" was a local gentleman who came into the toilet area (washroom is different) and realized that all sinks were currently being used. Instead of waiting, or even just walking out without washing (gross under normal circumstances) stepped up beside me (when 9 other spots on either side of me remained open) and commenced the washing of his hands in the urinal. "Entertainment."

Out of 894 Trillion people, I would assume that a few of them, 'possibree' the people running the transportation system, would know how to tell the time. Understandably, if you're having a baby every 13 minutes you might be busy too. Our train finally departed at 21:35 and we were on our way to Yogyakarta or Jogjakarta or Jogja or Yogy or whatever of the one thousand different names they have for it. We were to arrive at 04:38, quite a specific time of arrival so one would assume that they had their shit together. Very wrong. Like two and a half hours wrong.

Not having showered since the night before our flight I felt, for the second time this trip, like I'd been the urinal of 97 stray cats (because house hold cat pee is better.) We slung our belongings over our shoulders, adjusted the straps and began marching. With no shower or sleep in almost 2 days of travel, we just wanted to find a guest house quickly. Every person we asked pointed in a different direction, and I'm sure if we asked them the time they'd also all say something different. Jennie kept a happy face and I kept searching for someone to punch, and just as I swore it was going to be the next person to ask me for my money we found a place. Full. Full. Full. My blood pressure was rising and a vein, inherited from my dad, popped out of my forehead.

My tantrum was averted and we were able to find a shower and a bed, not the first 73 we looked at but we did find one. We showered, napped and were excited to begin our Indonesian adventure only to realize it was a holiday. Everything is closed for the next 4 days. Fantastico.

Posted by CRBackman 03:01 Archived in Indonesia Tagged transportation Comments (1)

Adventures in the Danger Zone

Friendly Traveller or Serial Killer?

At what point does the human mind, after going through a subconcious checklist, decide a person to be possibly harmful? In most situations its quite obvious when you feel your life or body may be in danger. Driving with Wallace is one of those situations. I don't like to admit this, but I've driven with Julio San-Chan while he was blitzed out of his mind, and felt safer. Apparently Lisa likes to check the vehicle's VIN number and the person ahead for prostate cancer, while driving. I'd rather sky dive with a bed sheet. Those of you who don't know, seriously, it's terrifying. Those of you who do, you have angels looking out for you. Those of you who continue to hitch rides with her, seek professional help.

As I was saying before my slight ramble, you can usually tell when you are in danger. However, it is more difficult to tell if someone is dangerous to you when the person you are talking with is someone who's well dressed, a great conversationalist, extremely knowledgable and very polite.

Jennie and I met such a fellow who struck up a conversation with us on our bus ride, taking us back to Bangkok from Koh Chang. He carried the entire conversation single handedly and Jennie and I were impressed with his ability to re-create places in Japan, Indonesia, China, Thailand, Myanmar and just about every other part of the world with unbeleivable description and clarity. We (he) talked for some time about travelling, politics, economics etc. before introducing ourselves. He (here forthwith will be known respectfully as Mr. Oldguy) had a charisma that most people would take as, well, charismatic but this was the point at which something in the back of my head clicked. We carried on in coversation about anything and everything until the topic of Canada arose; how he liked the views, didn't like the winters but loved the food. Now this was the point at which I could've claimed I'd lived on the planet Zorgatron in the Galaxy Splik-Splak and without so much as a hiccup, a studder or even the most brief of pauses, he would've described in the most unbeleivable detail my home planet of Zorgatron. But I kept it cool because I'm a cool cat.

Then Jennie got up from the table to grab some water.

Cool Cat Corey turned into Pee Pants Backman. He kept talking but he became ever-slightly suggestive. His tone changed. His body language shifted. He became Creepersaurus Rex. I felt like saying, "listen buddy, back on Zorgatron, we know your kind, there's creepersaurus rex's running rampant (Cole)." Now it was at this point that I realized that he had talked for so long, about so much, had managed to slither his way into so many facets and obtain so many facts about my life but he had yet to truly share one detail about himself with us. He had obtained so much of my information while not releasing any information about himself.

They make assassin moves based on this shit. He was pro.

Now was he a trained super assassin? Clearly not. He was about 174 years old. He looked frail enough that I'd kill him if I punched him in the toe. Maybe he knew I'd size him up and that's what he was banking on? Maybe he was an old soviet assassin, relying on his brains, not his bowflex.

Or maybe he was a self taught Bangkok surgeon and his plans were to hand me his business card and drug me with an unknown substance, take me to his 26th floor apartment over looking Bangkok and I'd wake up on a rigid, stainless steel table with my insides hanging out with him having taken what he wanted from my body (clearly not my liver).

Or maybe he was just a really nice old guy who perhaps enjoyed that we listened to his stories intently, shared his love of travel and appreciated that we weren't so quick to jump to conclusions about him.

Or maybe he came back in time to settle a debt...

Posted by CRBackman 04:15 Archived in Thailand Tagged seniors Comments (1)

Servin' Up Some Fever

...Dengue style


Like I'd mentioned at the end of my last entry, I owed the opposing team in a best of three volleyball match some beers. What I had gathered from the conversation strewn about was that I was to owe, apon my demise, a beer to each member on the other team of three.

May I add here that I was playing against freaks. I'm certain that Tai (his name, not Tai from Thai, but from Cambodia but lives in Thailand) was as freakish as the freaks come. He was, at best, in the 5'6", 125 lb range and I'm sure he could jump clear over the net if he so felt like it. I mean, it's weird. Other freaks I'm sure, look at him puzzlingly and say "Damn, that kid is a freak." King of freaks.

Let's carry on.

Like I'd previously mentioned, a commitee (at which I wasn't a part of) was ironing out the agreement of the match. The following countries were represented, all yammering about in "english;" South Africa, Spain, Thailand, Cambodia, Israel, and a Yugoslavian blooded, Swiss born, Austrian. Yeah figure that shit out. I tried. Not worth the effort.

What I heard was "shla blackerd blach shizen unst arrroight unsten boogen tres, Dan you are homosexual, No?" So it was settled. Apparently.

I lost. I bought beers, allegedly you only needed to buy one. Not a big deal at a dollar and a half. I drank some too. Not a lot though, which led to my confusion the nexty day.

Simply put, I felt like a bag of garbage that had been peed on by 97 stray cats. I assume similar to how the girls feel the morning after Brian has taken them home. I looked like hell and it felt like my head was in a vice and it progressively got worse throughout the day. I really didn't think I was drunk enough the night before to warrant what felt to be the second worst hangover I've ever had. (Joe is at fault for my worst ever. Surprise.) I was absolutely out of commission. My aches were brutal, my head was crushingly painful, I puked on the beach and oddest of all, I had aquired a chill. Not uncommon for a Canadian. Very uncommon for a Canadian in Thailand who sweats while he thinks. The temperature was at least 35 and I was cold?

Jennie, being the beautifully forethinking person that she is, had stashed a thermometre in our first-aid kit. After several minutes of near-domestica disputing about whether or not the thermometre was of the anal or oral variety I caved. Trusting her it was oral and had never once been used rectally, I used it. It displayed at 101.8 and then 101.9Needless to say I've been sleeping, drinking water, puking etc. all day and I can't remember a time where I've felt this terrible. I plan to visit the clinic or hospital in Bangkok in 2 days time.

Julio San-Chen will have to take care of me. He will make sure I drink my water and take my medicine. He's so caring.

Posted by CRBackman 04:35 Archived in Thailand Tagged health_and_medicine Comments (0)

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