Candi Gedong Songo

PTX Studio at Candi Gedong Songo, Indonesia

Happy Thanksgiving to all my Americans friends out there!  As I sit here typing between bites of friend rice, please know I’m dreaming of gravy covered stuffing, creamy green bean casserole and apple pies topped with ice cream.   I do have a chef friend here in town that says they’re offering a turkey, stuffing and cranberry special this week so maybe I’ll check that out tonight.

With no significant Indonesian holidays this month (which translates to no long weekends), Joel and I have been focused on some local travel.  One place that had been on our list for a while is a local-ish temple (called candi in Indonesian) named Gedong Songo.  We picked a cool, overcast morning to make the hour drive by scooter.  It was our longest scooter trip thus far and we could definitely feel it in our buns.  What’s the best way to soothe sore buns?  An hour on a horse! (That’s sarcasm in case you didn’t catch it.)  The trail around the temples is only four kilometers so it’s easily walkable, but I wanted to make my parents proud and ride the horses.  I grew up on a horse farm but had little interest in horses as a child, so I thought my mom and dad would get a kick out of an Amanda-on-a-horse picture.

PTX Studio at Candi Gedong Songo, Indonesia

The horses took us along windy path up the mountain side.  At each landing we’d get off to roam around the temples a bit for photos.  I was pleasantly surprised by how many visitors there were.  There was even a group of college aged kids that had camped there overnight.

PTX Studio at Candi Gedong Songo, IndonesiaPTX Studio at Candi Gedong Songo, Indonesia

We stumbled upon a wedding shoot about half way through our outing.  It made me think what pain in the ass to travel up a mountain in a white dress and full make up, but I’m sure the pictures from such a majestic location will be worth the trouble.

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Similar to our experience at Prambanan, we came across a couple of piles of rubble where temples once stood proving ancient architecture is no match for an earthquake.

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The ride down the hillside produced sweeping views of the valley below and the vegetation growing down the sloped terraces.  The ancient temples and expansive views made for a wonderful morning, but the cool weather really sealed the deal to make it a magical experience.

PTX Studio at Candi Gedong Songo, Indonesia

A little Jakarta trip

PTX Studio in Jakarta, Indonesia

October has been a month full of travel starting with our honeymoon in Bali, then a weekend in Jepara and finally a little jaunt to Jakarta.  But this trip wasn’t all rainbows and roller coasters; there was work to be done!  Work for Joel that is; he had a Saturday morning meeting.  He could have chosen to just fly in at 6:00am and come home that evening, but that would have made for a very long and not very fun day.  So being the party animals that we are, we decided to make a weekend out of it.

We arrived late-ish Friday evening and Saturday morning he was off to work bright and early.  I lounged around the hotel for a bit then headed out to stop number one: Pasar Tanah Abang, the largest textile market in SE Asia.  And of course I traveled by bajai!  I professed my love for the bajai on our last trip to Jakarta in February.  I truly believe I should own one of these adorable scooter-car hybrids and no matter how many times Joel tells me otherwise, I refuse to believe that it wouldn’t be street legal in the US.

PTX Studio in Jakarta, Indonesia

The maze of Tanah Abang was exactly as I remembered.  Floor upon floor of small cramped walkways winding through 40,000+ stalls of clothes, accessories and fabrics.  The market’s many buildings are labeled blocks A-F, then each building has up to ten floors.  It’s massive, congested and overwhelming for a first timer.

Looking for one specific vendor is a lost cause, but that was precisely my goal.  On my last visit I had seen a stall of tassels and trims and had only a vague idea of how I might find it again.  I browsed for about a half hour before stumbling across tassel trim heaven.  After spending only $5 USD I was the proud new owner of 40 mini tassels.  They’ll get paired with some textiles to become pillows as soon as I can get back to my sewing machine.

PTX Studio in Jakarta, Indonesiata-phone-gazer-blogPTX Studio in Jakarta, Indonesia

After the market, Joel was done with his meeting just in time for lunch.  When prepping for a weekend in Jakarta- especially a Halloween weekend- we read lots of blogs like Manual Jakarta and Honeycombers looking for restaurants and parties.  That’s where we heard of Attarine, a new restaurant by the Potato Head group that just so happened to be debuting their lunch service that day.  What a delicious decision it turned out to be! Their menu features a variety of small plates with lots of vegetarian dishes for Joel and a giant bowl of olives for me.

PTX Studio at Atterine in Jakarta, Indonesia

We stayed at Takes Mansion and Hotel for a second time; last time with a room in the mansion, this trip in the newer hotel part.  We used the pools accordingly, this trip hotel pool, last trip mansion pool.  Sunday morning we had just enough time for a quick dip between our Car Free Day walk and heading to the airpot.

PTX Studio in Jakarta, Indonesia

It’s funny that we’ve gone to Car Free Day on all of our Jakarta visits.  We’ve gone to the one in Semarang maybe twice and Joel said he never even went once in Jakarta despite living there for two years.  It makes sense though if you know anything about Jakarta and traffic.  Joel lived in the Kelapa Gading neighborhood in north Jakarta and Car Free Day is in central Jakarta.  If there was absolutely no traffic it would be a 20 minute trip, but in true Jakarta fashion it would typically take over an hour to make the trek.   Not worth it!

But Takes Mansion is right in the mix of central Jakarta so we were able to walk the strip of carless street from Grand Indonesia Mall to Monas.  We strolled through looking at vendors, grabbing a coffee at the now famous Starbucks and took selfies at the Monas monument.  When I first moved to Indonesia we spent my first weekend in Jakarta and Joel snapped a picture of me at the very same spot in front of Monas.  I remember how wide eyed I was about everything and everyone around me that first weekend in a foreign country and how different every aspect of the culture felt.

PTX Studio in Jakarta, IndonesiaPTX Studio in Jakarta, IndonesiaPTX Studio in Jakarta, Indonesia

During this walk, for no reason in particular I was drawn to taking photos of all the food carts along the way.  Even at the height of the popularity of the food truck scene in the US, they’re still viewed as somewhat quirky.  Food carts here are more wound into the fabric of everyday life.  They’re on every corner, serving all types of food and operate morning, noon and night.  After working for two different catering companies in the US, I have to laugh at how much red tape there was to set up a mobile food establishment back home.  In this country obtaining permits from the city to operate on the street or having a scheduled health inspection would be viewed as gratuitous and downright comical.

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After a sweaty morning walk and refreshing dip in the pool, it was time to head to the airport for our 60 minute flight home.  We planned on getting home early in the day so we could prep for work on Monday, but leaving that morning I felt a little sad that we hadn’t decided to linger later in the day for a leisurely brunch.  We’ll be back for another Jakarta weekend as part of a long layover when we head to Washington for Christmas.  Yes, a PNW CHRISTMAS!!   I’m a little excited to say the least.  I’m counting down the days until we can enjoy brisk days on a rocky beach and evenings sipping hot cocoa, listening to banjo music around a backyard fire pit.

PTX Studio in Indonesia

Prambanan Temple

 

PTX Studio at Prambanan

Our favorite Java travel destination-Yogyakarta!  Jogja, as it’s known in these parts, is a cultural mecca on the southern coast of Java that’s full of history and surrounded by temples.  On our first trip to Jogja last year,  Borobudur won out as our top temple to visit and we were not disappointed.  I would say it was spiritually moving, but I think the heat distracts my brain from having any kind of heavy, divine thoughts.  Nonetheless, we loved learning the history of the structure and we were flattered by the minor celebrity status that we received as the token white people.

Having conquered Borobudur meant that we would move down our list of Must See Temples so this trip we would be taking on Prambanan.   Also a World Heritage Site, Prambanan was constructed in the 9th century and is the largest Hindu temple in Indonesia.

PTX Studio at PrambananPTX Studio at Prambanan

It’s also worth noting that Boys II Men had a concert at Prambanan last August.  While  scooting through Semarang Joel pointed out a billboard advertising the concert and I nearly fell off the bike.  My devastation set in when I realized that the show had taken place the previous weekend.  Motown Philly was an important piece of artistic expression of my youth and being able to relive that as a grown-ass-adult in Indonesia would have been a juxtaposition of earth shattering proportion.  I die a little inside every time I remember my shitty timing; but I did my best to put that out of my mind as we made our way around the complex.

PTX Studio at Prambanan

They’re really bringing together the old and the new with the Instagram frame out front.  I think this scene makes it official that Instagram has taken over the planet.

You can see from the piles of rubble on the outskirts of the complex just how devastating earthquakes are to ancient temples.  Mount Merapi is just a stones throw away and erupts regularly so the region definitely has it’s far share of tectonic drama.  Rumor has it the master plan is to rebuild it all gradually and there were some areas under construction.  But the piles of bricks go on and on so rebuilding will be slow and arduous.  I don’t envy anyone facing that task!

PTX Studio at Prambanan

Just after I mentioned to Joel that I was so happy people were respectful of the ‘no climbing’ signs I saw this little girl having her photo taken on the ledge.  In her defense, she didn’t climb up, she was gently placed by her daddy.  As long as she’s not pushing bricks off the edge, I think they’ll let her slide.  And it pales in comparison to the American National Park vandals making the news lately.

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There is little shade inside the complex unless you’re in the shadow of a temple.  Even arriving at 8:00am didn’t save us from some pretty severe sweating.  We knew the drill since our visit to Borobudur was similarly scorching, so we were prepared with lots of water.  We took a short train ride around the Prambanan complex that offered a reprieve in the way of a small breeze.  The scooter ride home was nice and windy too.

PTX Studio at Prambanan

Our weekend solidified Jogja as my number one Javanese city for sightseeing, maybe even my favorite spot in Indonesia.  We’re headed to Bali next week for our honeymoon so we’ll see if it can steal my heart away from Jogja.  Even visiting during the height of tourist season, Jogja felt as authentically Indonesian as ever.  We’ll see if Bali can say the same!

PTX Studio at Prambanan

 

 

 

Back at it!

PTX Studio in Singapore

Well I said I wanted to blog more then I didn’t post anything for a month, but I swear I have an excuse and that excuse is my computer died.  It was a sad, sad day, but my last MacBook was probably about eight years old so it was time to upgrade.  Lucky for me I had a trip to Singapore lined up to renew my work visa so I stayed an extra day to do some computer shopping.  I came home with a new MacBook Pro and I couldn’t be happier.  Let’s hope this one lasts another eight years.

I stayed at Porcelain Hotel in Chinatown where I stayed on my first trip to Singapore last year.   It’s inexpensive, incredibly convenient and my room was a beautiful, stark white cocoon.   This trip I got upgraded digs due to two separate reservations being made for my trip (standard room booked by work then a suite secured by me for me).  I politely declined paying extra to upgrade for the two nights that my work had booked, but they upgraded me anyway probably to save themselves the labor of cleaning the extra room had I made the switch.  It was a pleasant and welcome surprise.

PTX Studio in SingaporePTX Studio in Singapore

During my last trip, I discovered the neighborhood of Telok Ayer and made good on my promise to do a little exploring in the area.  Of course returning to my favorite coffee spot Free the Robot, then meandering around to photograph all the buildings on the surrounding streets.  My next trip itinerary will hopefully include the Red Dot Design Museum that I discovered but didn’t have a chance to visit.

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Since Joel and I have different visa renewal schedules we still haven’t had the chance to visit Singapore together.  I think I’ve had enough solo exploring having gone alone four times now.  We’re looking a possibly December during our holiday break so we can finally visit Har Paw Villa which we’ve been saving for a couples trip and maybe even squeeze in a romantic dinner.

PTX Studio in Singapore

 

Port Townsend Weekend

PTX Studio at Fort Worden in Port Towsend, WA

Pacific Northwest!!!  There is nothing more perfect on this Earth than a PNW summer.  I am so happy that Joel and I got the spend the whole month of July exploring all the little towns around Skagit Valley.  Our first excursion was to head up to Port Townsend in Joel’s parent’s RV and stay at Fort Worden for two nights.  I’m not a fan of camping, but after this trip I discovered that I am all for RV living.   Joel’s parents Tim and Kirsten drove while Joel and I lounged on the bed with Blanche checking out the scenery.

PTX Studio in Port Towsend, WA

From there house on Camano Island, we drove over Deception Pass to Whidbey Island and ferried over to Port Townsend.  It’s a short two hour trip with sweeping Salish Sea views the whole way.  We walked around Fort Casey while we waited for the ferry from Whidbey to Port Townsend and I took the opportunity to get some family shots.

PTX Studio in Port Towsend, WAJ+A-Fort-CaseyPTX Studio in Port Towsend, WA

We did a little exploring of Port Townsend, of course visiting the Indonesian furniture store, then headed out to Fort Worden to set up our campsite.

PTX Studio in Port Towsend, WAPTX Studio at Fort Worden in Port Towsend, WA

Not having previously seen An Officer and a Gentleman (which was filmed at Fort Worden), I wasn’t sure what to expect.  The grounds at Fort Worden are vast and beautifully manicured.  Joel grew up coming here for family reunions and camping weekends with his folks, but there was still so much more history to learn about the grounds.  It was so beautiful I almost regretted planning our city wedding.

PTX Studio at Fort Worden in Port Towsend, WAPTX Studio at Fort Worden in Port Towsend, WA

Our morning walk options were endless with trails, beaches and forts.  On day we took the high road through the fort overlooking the beach, the next day was the low road to the north beach.  Blanche and Henry (the dogs) enjoyed each and every path as long as they could follow the family closely.

PTX Studio at Fort Worden in Port Towsend, WAPTX Studio at Fort Worden in Port Towsend, WAPTX Studio at Fort Worden in Port Towsend, WAPTX Studio at Fort Worden in Port Towsend, WAFog-blogPTX Studio at Fort Worden in Port Towsend, WASpencers-walk-blogPTX Studio at Fort Worden in Port Towsend, WAPTX Studio at Fort Worden in Port Towsend, WA

Joel and I explored the fort area during the afternoon.  I’m sure he would have preferred to take me down there at night to scare the shit out of me, but I know him too well and I’m not falling for that.  It was spooky enough during the daytime!

PTX Studio at Fort Worden in Port Towsend, WAPTX Studio at Fort Worden in Port Towsend, WA

My first foray into RVing won me over.  As I mentioned I’ve been an anti-camper for many, many years and I’d been told time and time again that I was just camping incorrectly.  Now I realize that everyone was right all along- I was camping without an RV which is just wrong in my opinion.  A big thank you to my in-laws (because I know they read this!) for showing me the light and taking Joel and I on this awesome vacation.  I can’t wait to do it again next summer!

PTX Studio at Fort Worden in Port Towsend, WA

Ikat explorations in Troso

PTX Studio in Troso, Indonesia

We’re getting down to the wire; just two weeks until we go back to the US for over a month!  But that’s not stopping us from working in some last minute travel.  We first heard of Troso when we went to Jepara in January.   The small village is just south of Jepara and is known for it’s production of woven fabrics.  The main street was lined with stores full of gorgeous, colorful ikat and songket textiles, but we wanted to go deeper than just shopping.  I had recently connected with an ikat seller on Instagram and asked if we could visit their studio.  They were gracious enough to oblige us and that’s how we came to meet Mario and his uncle, Pak Aman.

PTX Studio in Troso, Indonesia

We followed Mario down a dirt road just past their impressive neighborhood mosque.  Connected to Pak Aman’s home is a small, covered, outdoor workshop set up with multiple looms.  He gave a detailed, step-by-step lesson on the dying and weaving process, starting with mapping out the initial design with ink to wrapping the threads tightly with plastic as to resist the dye.

PTX Studio in Troso, IndonesiaPTX Studio in Troso, Indonesia

The plastic bindings create intricate patterns, then the threads are removed from the frames to be dyed.  We were impressed with Pak Aman’s extensive knowledge of each motif and where it originated, whether it was from Java, Kalimantan, Sulawesi or Sumatra.  Pak Aman’s family has been weaving for five generations, so he’s had many years to soak up knowledge of dying and weaving.

PTX Studio in Troso, Indonesia

The home’s kitchen floor served as the spooling area with a machine that spins the dyed and dried thread onto spools, then they’re loaded onto the looms.  There were more looms than I anticipated, probably a dozen between the two studio rooms he showed us, but with each piece taking a month to complete you have to have quite a few irons in the fire so to speak.

PTX Studio in Troso, Indonesia

Mario was nice enough to let me have a go at the loom, I would definitely need a few lessons before I felt comfortable at the helm.  Joel was actually the more natural weaver which was a pleasant surprise.

Amanda weaves! PTX Studio in Troso, Indonesia

With so many amazing patterns it was hard to pick just a few to bring home.   Even though I couldn’t take them all, my ikat stash is getting pretty extensive (photo on the right below).  It’s a good thing we’re moving next week and I’ll have lots of home goods needs so I can start putting these beauties to work.

PTX Studio in Troso, Indonesia

Second time around in Solo

PTX Studio in Solo, Indonesia

If spending two weekends in Solo in two months will tell you anything, I think it says we enjoy this little city.  It feels little when thinking of it in comparison to other Javanese cities like Jakarta, but with a population of half a million, Solo is nothing to shake a stick at.

Our first trip to Solo was for my birthday in March; we stayed at the beautiful Royal Heritage Surakarta Hotel and loved every minute of it.   But there were other interesting hotels in Solo that we wanted to explore and we thought our last long weekend of the school year was a perfect time.  We found the Rumah Turi Eco Hotel online boasting their reputation as ‘the first eco-friendly boutique resort in Solo’ and we scooped up the last room on Booking.com.   Unfortunately, someone got their wires crossed and when we arrived to check in there was no room waiting for us, despite the confirmation email I had in hand stating otherwise.  It was a rough blow after holiday traffic had stretched our two hour trip to four.   The hotel apologized and found us another room in town (presumably the last one available anywhere due to the holiday) and even gave us a ride to the new hotel.  However the last room in town wasn’t anything to write home about so we stayed there only one night.

For the remainder of the trip we were able to snag a room at Roemahkoe Heritage Hotel.  Roemahkoe embodies everything that Joel and I love in a getaway, so much Javanese character, beautiful art and culture and of course, live gamelan music.

PTX Studio in Solo, Indonesia          PTX Studio in Solo, Indonesia

The hotel’s location was fantastic, situated in the heart of the Laweyan Batik Village.  The maze of winding alleyways took us on a journey discovering countless batik stores and workshops.  I had no trouble picking up a couple of souvenirs for myself including a fan that I made use of immediately.

PTX Studio in Solo, IndonesiaPTX Studio in Solo, Indonesia

In typical Javanese fashion, the streets were lined with friendly faces and tons of kids who wanted to have their picture taken, especially the ones that can pop a sick wheelie on their bike.  The vibrant buildings around the city do their share of beckoning for portraits as well with their eye-catching architecture, traditional murals, brightly colored doors and tiles.   Solo is as busy as the signature patterns on their batiks with few places for the eyes and imagination to rest.

PTX Studio in Solo, IndonesiaPTX Studio in Solo, IndonesiaPTX Studio in Solo, IndonesiaPTX Studio in Solo, Indonesia

On our first trip we only managed to make it to one of the two palaces in town (yes, it’s a city with two royal palaces!), so we made a point to see the second palace or kraton this weekend.  The photo ops were few and far between as they don’t allow photography of many of the artifacts and the buildings can be very dark.   In my opinion, the placement of the taxidermy tiger was all wrong, being located in a dark area where photos were off limits.  If I ever get the job as kraton decorator, I’d definitely move him into a covered, but well lit area on the porch in hopes of some royal tiger photos going viral.

PTX Studio in Solo, Indonesia

The history and culture of Solo give it a really soulful vibe.  Spending our holiday bumming around one of Java’s biggest cultural hot spots was a perfect long weekend escape.  Next up on our travel schedule is the good ‘ol USA.  We have just over a month until we go to North Carolina to visit family and get reunited with my dog, then on to Seattle to get married.  I can honestly say that our travels in Indonesia have been hard to beat, but I think seeing family after almost a year abroad will be the best trip yet.

PTX Studio in Solo, Indonesia