11 06 2009

Indonesian food is incredibly diverse and usually tastes better than they look.

My favorites are bebek goreng (duck fried crispy in high temperatures) from Solo and martabak (sweet pancake-like night food) from Jakarta.

Nasi gudeg (sweet-spicy rice meal with double-boiled egg, jackfruit chunks, cowskin, chicken shreds, etc), a Yogyakarta specialty and pempek (deep fried fish and egg drowned in spicy garlic vinegar), a snack from Palembang are both equally sumptuous. Indonesian es teh (iced tea) are also addictive.

Other delicious meals include kaput tahu (a tofu dish) and timlo (boiled and scrambled eggs plus chicken liver in broth), both eaten in the unassuming sidewalk stalls of Solo.

Of course, there is also the ubiquitous nasi goreng (fried rice), satay ayam (barbecued chicken with peanut sauce), beef rendang, mie goreng (fried noodles) and many countless other dishes, including some nice cassava and coconut milk desserts. Indonesian meals won’t be complete without sambal (chili sauce) and kecap manis (sweet soy sauce). Below are photos of soto ayam (soup with chicken) and a Jogja sidewalk food place with mats and tables and boxes of delicious krupuk (deep-fried crackers).

I miss Indonesia already.



9 06 2009

Back again in Manila, the city of bright lights, giant billboards and pink bridges.

The trip to Indonesia, despite being the least adventurous, turned out to be the longest (2 weeks), least stressful and most pampered (free food, accommodation, transport, tour guide and Mercedes rides) travel abroad so far. Jakarta is a sprawling metropolis I’ll probably love in due time (right amount of chaos + jaw-dropping shopping mall interiors) but even the most patient person will probably be frustrated by the bad suburban roads and horrendous traffic jams (it can take as much as 3 hours to get to the other side of the city on the worst hours). Below: view of a Jakarta neighborhood.

The historic Central Javan capitals of Yogyakarta and Solo (Surakarta), on the other hand, are everything that Jakarta isn’t. Older, smaller, more charming, better planned and culturally richer. The majestic ancient structures of Buddhist Borobudur and Hindu Prambanan nearby are in fact older than Angkor Wat. We took the day train across the heart of Java and the lush terraced fields and quaint Javanese villages (with houses consistently painted white with red, shingled roofs) were breathtaking. Below: Borobudur and Prambanan.

We were witness too to my Indonesian cousin’s unbelievably grand wedding ceremonies, done both in the Muslim and the Batak traditions. The former was solemn and short (with 4000 guests!) while the latter was ritualistic and long (already shortened to two days from the original seven). I admire how Indonesians have been able to seamlessly merge the old and the new, the traditional and the modern. Plus they have great batik clothes, interior designing, furniture and architecture. Below: Batak wedding procession.

Indonesia is a wonderfully diverse country (Malaysia does not even compare) and there are several places I would wish to visit soon (Gunung Bromo, Bali, Lombok, Sulawesi, Sumatra, Maluku). The food is excellent (details in another post) and the language is pretty easy to learn. And the people are awesome, especially one in particular (ahem ahem). Will definitely return.

More photos here.