Tanah Lot

Tanah Lot is a temple on a cliff on the West coast of Bali. It’s probably one of the most photographed temples in Bali as the sun sets behind it. Unfortunately, it was overcast to the West, and the sunset wasn’t so much a sunset as a disappearance behind clouds.

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Lacking a beautiful sunset, I distracted myself by shooting some of the patterns carved into the rocks.

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No beach experience is complete without tossing a disc. I got a chance to play with some slow shutter speeds for fun.

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Climbing Gunung Batur

After a very short night of intermittent sleep, interrupted regularly by a barking dog outside the door of our guest house, we set out at 4:00 a.m. up the side of Gunung Batur. We got to the top just in time for me to set up my camera and capture the first light. It wasn’t a difficult hike by any means, but spectacular.

I’d love to know what planet or star is visible in the top left of this photo. It was really bright in the morning sky.

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The sunrise was absolutely spectacular; quite possibly the most beautiful I’ve seen in my travels.

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Gunung Rinjani was visible off in the distance (above and below left). The other side of the old Batur volcano was silhouetted in the foreground along with Gunung Agung (below, far right).

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Of course, this being Indonesia, a warung was set up at the crest of the volcano. Admittedly, a kopi susu was a nice treat after a two hour walk up hill.
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The lava flows from the 1974 eruption are still visible as a black desert on the landscape.

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The guides are regulated and will harass and threaten anyone without a guide on the mountain. Our official guide cost IDR 300,000 per person and was a lazy jerk. You have three options for a trek: short, medium, and long as shown their map. We paid for the long trek, and got something similar to the medium trip with a lot of sitting to stretch it out to the full time. We complained when we got back to the village of Toya Bungkan where we were staying. It seemed the village was ready to roast one of their own.

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Despite the annoying guide, I’d still recommend the hike to anyone as it was clearly spectacular.

Back to Bali

I had definitely taken Bali for granted while I lived in Indonesia. It was so easy, cheap, and less than two hours away. It wasn’t until I spent this past week in Bali that I realized exactly how beautiful of an island it is. Here’s four random shots from around Ubud.

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We took a bicycle tour with Bali Eco Tours. I had picked up their flyer on a previous trip and gave them a call this time around. It was a mostly downhill ride through the back roads like this one.

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While it wasn’t quite as enlightening as the bicycle tour of Yogyakarta that I did, it was still a lot of fun. I chatted with the owner of Bali Eco Tours for a little while, and he seems like he’s trying to run a first class operation.

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Diving in the Sunda Straight

Going diving with someone with an underwater camera is great. These are courtesy of Dedi

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One of our dives was at the site of a Japanese wrek from World War II.

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Bromo: More Panoramas

Yeah, it’s a really long flight. Here’s some photos from Gunung Bromo stitched together. I can’t figure out why the small images have cracks where they’ve been stitched and the full size images don’t. Take a look at the full-size images.

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View the full size photo.

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View the full size photo.

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View the full size photo.

On a side note, March of the Penguins is a great film.

Pulau Macan

For my last weekend in Jakarta, we decided to escape with friends to Pulau Macan. Our sunset boat ride to another island provided some great light for portraits.

I also borrowed Joya’s nifty waterproof camera while snorkeling. I leaned that photographing fish is pretty difficult if you’re trying to capture anything but them swimming away from you.

The colours inside of some of the clams are fantastic.

The hard coral around Macan is relatively healthy. Being so close to Jakarta, that doesn’t mean that it’s not without some large bleached out areas.

I’ve been looking online without luck to see what this creature is. He was neat to watch as he hung out resting on the coral. There were three of them. Does anyone know of an online fish identification guide?

These white and pink fish hang out in the sand and challenge anything that comes near. They’ll charge you by swimming right up to your face before turning quickly away to make another approach. They’re synonymous with Pulau Macan in my memory.

I didn’t manage to capture the vibrant blue and purple colour of the crabs on the dock with a good shot, mostly because they were quicker than the shutter on Joya’s camera. Which brings me to the possibility of buying a housing and strobe for my Nikon. Underwater photography has intrigued me for a long time, but I don’t know if I can bring myself to drop $1,500 on a single-purpose piece of plastic. That’s not including the macro lens I’d feel compelled to buy.

The last warung supper

One of my requests for a last dinner in Indonesia was for some good street food. So we found ourselves at the seafood warung on Jl. Benhil. Apparently Santosa Seafood is pretty famous, despite no one knowing its name.

It’s not exactly the nicest environment, given that it’s a tent over a dirt sidewalk outside of an ATM, but the food more than makes up for it. At 70,000 rupiah ($8), I think it’s the most expensive meal I’ve ever had at a warung, but the fish, crab, calamari, and shrimp in a variety of sauces was worth every rupiah.

Canada Day in Jakarta

The Embassy put on a spectacular Canada Day event at the Four Seasons in Jakarta. The entire place was fixed up to look like Quebec City, and a bunch of staff got together to organize period-ish costumes for the event.

Creative Transportation Solutions

Jakarta is home to a number of absurd ideas for transportation solutions, most notably: a half-built monorail; one-way streets that prevent you from getting anywhere; minimum passenger regulations at rush hour, complete with a market for extra passengers; and, the general idea that it’s possible for millions of cars and millions and millions of motorcycles can all get where they want to go efficiently.

This article, “Indonesia to deploy skating police officers to overcome traffic jams” summarizes what might be 2008’s winner for most stupid transportation plan.

JAKARTA – INDONESIA is rolling out a new weapon in its battle against gridlock: traffic police on inline skates.

The idea is that officers will be able to reach traffic jams in the capital Jakarta quicker than by car or motorbike, the Koran Tempo daily reported. Once there, they will be able to direct vehicles to get the city’s traffic flow moving again.

Traffic police in Jakarta have a reputation for laziness and often demand bribes from motorists to ignore minor or imaginary violations. The city’s 12 million residents generally hold them in low regard.

Thanks Michael.

Pelabuhan Ratu

We spent a weekend at a great place on the south coast of Java.

The weekend revolved around eating breakfast…

eating lunch…, eating dinner…, sleeping…

lounging…

throwing around a frisbee…

and playing games.

It’s mango season again, and I decided to buy two of every mango in the store. We had a tasting session of five different kinds.

In the end, we decided that the many varieties of harum manis were the best, and the cheapest of those were actually my favourite.

Lardi – my driver and a new father

I’ve been meaning to post a couple of photos of Lardi that Joya took one night while we were driving. He’s a great guy who takes good care of us.

I delayed posting these photos because I knew there was more to add to the story of Lardi. One day a few weeks ago, Lardi came into my office and asked if he could have the afternoon off and if he could borrow 500,000 rupiah. He looked quite panicked so I asked if everything was alright. He said yes, but maybe his wife was pregnant. I assumed that he she had to go to the hospital to get a pregnancy test.

I gave him the money and the afternoon off and didn’t think about it again until Lardi called me the next morning to say his wife had had a baby boy. I was shocked at the news. The day before was the first time he had mentioned anything about a baby, and all I knew was that “maybe she’s pregnant.”

“Well,” I said, “Does he have a name yet?”

“Belum (not yet). Maybe you and Ibu Joya can give him a name.”

The only thought that crossed my mind was, “Does he realize that he’s asking the guy who named his cat “Jak” because he’s from Jakarta to name his child?” This is going to be tough. I called Joya in a panic.

I flew to Yogyakarta to meet Joya the next day and we spent the weekend trying to come up with a name. In talking to people, it seems that it’s not uncommon for children to be named by others. It’s a sign of respect. And in Lardi’s words, “I’ve already named three kids. I can’t think of good name for this one.”

After a weekend of indecision, we settled on Albert Toro. There’s a whole rationale for why, but we figured that if he wanted a traditional Indonesian name, he certainly wouldn’t have turned to us.

This weekend, we went to see Albert at his home and met the rest of Lardi’s family for the first time.

We also learned that Lardi is a traditional medicine man and gives massages to just about everyone to cure a variety of ailments. Lardi’s an all-around great guy.

Celebrity for a day: East Jakarta Food and Drink Exhibition

We stumbled across the East Java Food and Drink Exhibition and decided to stop in. From the outside it looked like a normal fair, but from the inside it was clear this was a shameless excuse for government bureaucrats to travel. Tourism officials from each regency in East Java were there to plug their region. The only problem was that the only people attending appeared to be other officials from other regencies.

I think what they all realized the best way to prove to the people back home that they were being effective was to get a photo of a tourist in their booth. Since we were the only tourists, that meant us. We were dragged into every booth to sample some food and pose for a photo.

Admittedly, everyone was bored of waiting for the Governor to arrive and officially open the event. Estimates seemed to vary, but the best-case scenario was that he was only five hours late.

This girl was really cute. She was actually the first to approach us. She wanted to practise English and have a photo taken.

This guy wanted me to know that his region was known for their fierce warriors as depicted in the statue behind us. He also let me know that I had a really big head as I was the first person whom his hats did not fit. Of course, there were the usual comments about me being tall.

The expressions on the faces of the two kids in that photo sum up our stop.

Signs that amuse me: Ball Breaker (500 Kg Capacity)

We toured a tea plantation somewhere in East Java. Inside the factory was this gem of a sign attached to a machine that looked quite capable of the described action.

The scenery was also pretty spectacular.

Gunung Bromo

We made a return trip to Gunung Bromo. Like last time, we got up ridiculously early for a 4×4 trip across the crater. The sulfur smell was incredible. We couldn’t see it at the time, but the entire crater was filled with fog.

Whatever the weather was doing, it was keeping the escaping gasses from Bromo inside the crater until eventually they spilled out over the sides.

My advice to anyone going to Bromo has been to wait at the sunrise viewing platform until well after the crowds leave. This time the fog didn’t lift, but it was certainly nice having the platform and the stairs up bromo to ourselves after everyone had headed home.

I took some shots that I’m going to try to stitch together into a panorama when I get the time. There’s also series that I might try to create a high dynamic range photo out of. I’ve seen some great shots done that way, and some that are disappointing. I’m interested in seeing how mine turn out. This will be the first time I’ve done any post processing beyond slight curve adjustments.

Lapindo Mud Flow

This might look like the beginnings of a nice sunset over a small lake.

…but it’s actually the beginnings of a sunset over a giant pool of mud. To be specific, it’s hot mud flowing from a well that was drilled in natural gas exploration. It’s turned into a volcano that spews nothing but mud at an incredible rate.

The mudflow started two years ago, and spread almost instantly to swallow several villages in their entirety.

The government and the company responsible, or irresponsible company that has yet to be held responsible, have been building dams to direct the mud into a river and out into the ocean.

There are over 12,000 displaced families that have yet to recieve compensation for their destroyed homes. The twist comes from the fact that the compay, Lapindo Brantas Inc., is owned by one of the richest men in Indonesia who also happens to be the government’s Minister for the People’s Welfare.

The National Commission on Human Rights has gone so far as to say the mudflow is a, “Gross human rights violation.”

Talking to people in the area, it was clear that the entire region is suffering. The toll road through the region was completely wiped out, and the factories that depended on the road have started to close putting a lot of people out of work.