Sal’s Travelogue #1 – Starting Solo

May 19, 2009 by  
Filed under Exotic South East

Traveling alone is often considered unusual, risky, lonely and even to some, boring. But there are often times when we feel the need to break away from the world at large, and explore new things that we are often unaware of, all on our own. In this upcoming series of travelogues, Sal relates his story of backpacking through South East Asia for a whole month on less than US$700. Here’s the start to his month-long journey!

Six hours to go before my flight, and I’m still stuck at the D section in my music library. Playlist unsettled, toiletry still neatly laid out in the washroom and myself, no where near ready for my first solo experience overseas. I can’t help but ask aloud, “What have you gotten yourself into this time?”

Picture yourself on a Friday night out with the mates, having a blast in the pub or stuffing yourselves silly over supper. Or perhaps a Sunday afternoon at home, catching up with the ones you care and love. How often has the topic of ‘seeing the world’ and ‘uncovering what’s out there’ come about – and how often has the idea died off as just another casual mention?

Photo credit - !borghetti

Photo credit - !borghetti

I for one, have been all too familiar with the concept of ‘someday’. What I did, and how I got to where I am, however, deserves no special mention. Simply put – I got sick of it all, quit the nine to five and decided to go off on my own for a month.

The next natural question would be where to, but in my case, this was easily decided by the unshakeable charm that Cambodia had left on me during my visit just over a month before. Not wanting to merely repeat that experience, however, I’ve decided to explore Vietnam and Laos as well.

As much as I’d like to believe that I have this sorted out, reality is such that I do not. All I know is, come 7am, I’ll be on my way to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, where i’ll probably have to figure out how to take the bus from the airport (which I gather is 7km away from the central area of the city itself) to a place called Pham Ngu Lao. For those unfamiliar, Pham Ngu Lao is probably my best bet for affordable lodging, especially considering that I’m trying to pull off a month-long journey on no more than US$700. Vietnam tomorrow, and perhaps, the day after as well.

What’s beyond that, however, is something I haven’t really thought about – but hey, what’s a journey without a few surprises along the way?

Photo credit - xAv.

Photo credit - xAv.

Sights both familiar and unfamiliar – but for a constant, I hold on to this elusive desire to finally rid myself of one more thing to do before I get too old. Though dreams serve as fuel for life itself, it is often with regret that we make up for not having lived the lives we’ve wanted.

Seeing South East Asia is but a small part of my larger, more ambitious dream of wanting to see the world. It probably won’t be smooth sailing all the way, especially judging from how frantically I’m trying to pack. But despite all that, I’ve never felt more alive and closer to accomplishing what may have been just another passing conversation.

About the Author. Sal S-S. A writer by profession, a free spirit by nature – Sal believes that his life’s one purpose is to see it all, learn it all and do it all. Currently based as a freelance copywriter in Singapore, it is for life’s many unknowns and uncertainties that he sets his sights beyond borders and into new discoveries. Living and working for the journey itself and nothing less, it is with pen in hand and passion at heart that he contributes to Unearthing Asia.

6 Uniquely Indonesian Festivals

Indonesia is often referred to as the sleeping giant of Southeast Asia, and rightly so. With more than 18,000 islands in its archipelago, there is an amazing diversity of what to see and do while on holiday here.

Modernization has seen development (some would say over-development) wash over Jakarta, while Bali’s tourism continues to enjoy a gradual revival after the horrible 2002 bombing. There is also the mountains of Bromo and the mythical Borobudur for those looking for an off-the-beaten path attractions, as well as more than 6,000 inhabited islands.

Not surprisingly, Indonesia boasts various festivals that are unique to their culture, reflecting the assorted races and traditions in different parts of the archipelago. You’ll find this diversity in the following list of 6 Uniquely Indonesian Festivals, ranging from celebrations of art, batik, to dances and ceremonies. If possible, you’ll do well to catch any one of these festivals during your visit to Indonesia!

Tuping Karnaval and Mount Krakatau. Photo credit - canonian_eos and flydime.

Tuping Karnaval and Mount Krakatau. Photo credit - canonian_eos and flydime.

Krakatoa Festival

An annual festival held in Lampung, the Krakatoa Festival is held to celebrate the volcanic island by the same name, Krakatoa. This famed volcano erupted violently as far back as 1927, some of which has resulted in newer smaller islands, named Anak Krakatoa (Child of Krakatoa).

During the festival, one can enjoy various performances such as the Tuping Karnaval (Lampung Mask Carnival), elephant procession as well as assorted dance performances from Lampung and its surrounding townships. The finale of the event is a trip to the volcanic island itself, still active but sleeping dormant for the time being!

Bali Art Festival. Photo credit - saylow's and simon.monk.

Bali Art Festival. Photo credit - saylow's and simon.monk.

Bali Art Festival

One of the largest annual celebration of art and culture in Indonesia, the Bali Art Festival is always, always crowded. It is a full month of daily performances, arts exhibitions and other related cultural activities during which the whole of Bali comes along to present its offering of dance, music and beauty.

This famed celebration offers various performances such as forgotten village dances, trances from remote parts of Bali, food, offerings and handicrafts, as well as new creations from Denpasar’s dance schools and contemporary choreography from national and international artists.

Solo Batik Festival. Photo credit - sarasha and Aming Sutanto.

Solo Batik Festival. Photo credit - sarasha and Aming Sutanto.

Solo Batik Carnival

From a long time ago, the tradition of Batik has always had very strong roots in Solo. This central Java town has even taken Batik as its icon and identity, an apt portrayal of a town known for its royal beauty and calm demeanor. The Solo Batik Carnival was held to reinforce this tradition, and further promote Batik in international and national scale.

The event is a combination of ceremonies, fashion shows and carnival, all of which using Batik as a constant theme throughout. There will also be a bazaar offering various Batiks and souvenirs unique to Solo for your perusal.

Solo International Ethnic Music Festival

Another recent offering in Solo is the Solo International Ethnic Music (SIEM) Festival, which focuses on performances and celebration of ethnic music. The event is a unique platform for collaboration between ethnic and modern music, local and international artists. The long list of performers includes artists from all over the archipelago, such as Minang, Riau, Yogyakarta, Surabaya, Papua, Kalimantan, and even foreign imports from Japan, Australia, India, New Zealand and many others.

The gamelan, and Yogyakarta's Sekaten. Photo credit - Jungle_Boy and protectglasgow.

The gamelan, and Yogyakarta's Sekaten. Photo credit - Jungle_Boy and protectglasgow.

Gerebeg Mulud

In Javanese, gerebeg means a crowd of people and mulud refers to one of the month in the Javanese calendar. This event, also known as Sekaten, is to celebrate the birthday of the Holy Prophet Muhammad. It is a day-long procession which sees two of the sacred gamelan (a Javanese musical instrument) transported towards the Mesjid Agung (Holy Mosque).

During the night there will be a street-side market in the north side of town to add to the revelries, a great spot to try various Javanese and Yogyakartan foods and hunt for souvenirs.

Papua Festival. Photo credit - jurvetson.

Papua Festival. Photo credit - jurvetson.

Lembah Baliem Festival

This uniquely Papuan festival traces its root in the belief held by the various local tribe that war is not only a conflict of power and interest, but also a symbol of fertility and prosperity. Since 20 years ago however, the local government has enforced peace between the warring tribes to prevent long-lasting vengeance and loss of life. So instead, the Lembah Baliem Festival was held to replace the war between the tribes.

As you can guess, the main event is the mock-war between the local tribes. Imagine more than 20 different tribes each with 30 to 50 people clad in traditional clothing, spears, bow and arrows and parang! There are also other performances and attractions, such as local traditional games, dance performances, as well as a cookout showcasing the local cuisine.

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