in International Travel

The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Islam

Today was another travel day. Chris and Dan got up and left early to explore the Batu Caves, but Adam and I slept in. We had a light breakfast at the SPG lounge, packed up, and hurried out to the Islamic Arts Museum of Malaysia to meet Chris and Dan at 10am.

imageWe took a $3 taxi and got there early, having to wait for the museum to open. You could tell KL was a little more of a conservative town than those in Thailand. Most people were wearing pants and, at a minimum. tee shirts. It was the first town we visited that had an Islamic majority; the previous cities had been primarily Bhuddist. We particularly enjoyed the girl in the mini-skirt waiting in line to get in the museum, obviously clueless that she was likely to offend with her choice of attire.

image Adam and I wandered through the museum, first learning about the various types of mosque architecture and how political and regional influences affected the styles. Dan and Chris caught up to us and we all made our way through the museum. There was an impressive collection of centuries-old litrature, relics, ceremonial clothing, weapons, and art. The building was built in 1998 and the museum itself was fairly well put together.

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Tiny Quran is tiny

In order to make it to the airport in time, we had to make our way back to the hotel. We grabbed our things and played several rounds of hurry up and wait during our trek to our airport gate for our afternoon flight to Yogyakarta. As with our most of our Asian flights, it didn’t leave remotely on time.

We sat in the same seats on an identical AirAsia A320–200 that was equally as empty as the previous flight. Our pre-ordered meals arrived mid-way through the 2+ hour duration. For being plane food, I really enjoyed the green curry chicken with rice and Kit Kat.

Unexpectedly, there was little-to-no turbulence on this leg. Upon our arrival into Indonesia, I celebrated my new shellback status, having crossed over the equator for the first time. The celebration was short, though, because we were immediately met with immigration chaos. The airport was small, so we deplaned using a staircase onto the Tarmac. It was a race to pay for our visas and fill out the customs forms on whatever flat surfaces we could find. What followed next was a series of lines: immigration, locating luggage in a sea of bags, exitking the baggage area, and having the bags X-rayed. Lots of small women were pushing and shoving and I had to speak up for my place in line more than once.

Outside, we met the drivers – one tiny, manual transmission Toyota crossover for us, one Daihatsu for our bags. I sat in front and the 90-minute drive to Villa Borobudur was exhausting. Dilapidated single-story buildings lined the streets. It was starting to get dark, and there was nothing to see anymore. The driver hugged the center line of the busy streets, aggressive motorbikes weaving in and out. What are lanes? Whatever, just go where you want. I was ready to get out of the car half-way to the villa.

Eventually the road narrowed to one lane. After a series of turns through a small village with monotone prayers amplified over a loudspeaker, we started our steep climb up the hillside. The staff were waiting for us in car park area of our brand new open air villas No doors, no windows, just rooms with half-walls and mosquito nets. It had beautiful, ornate woodwork throughout and plenty of lounging areas. There was a medium-sized, freshwater pool and a large patio area that presumably overlooked the villages below.

We unloaded our things as the villagers below us were reciting their final prayers of the day (last of 5 times daily) and walked upstairs to the dining area, where dinner was ready for us. I vaguely remember having some beer, white rice, and chicken. Due to the combination of carsickness, migraine, dehydration, over-stimulation (unrecognizable bugs + stuffy heat + unknown variables), and anxiety, I had to leave the table.

I spent the evening making my “tent” habitable, setting up chargers, turning on lights in a satisfactory manner, spraying the entire room, staying awake long enough to ensure I wouldn’t be disturbed by any unwanted insects. Blue lights in the ceiling of the room to scare away the spiders, but not inside the net to attract bugs. It was… stressful. I think I slept a total of 3 hours off and on.