Friday, June 30, 2006

lonely planet photo competition

Buffalo Bill?

This picture was taken in a village in Jharkhand, India. I had tagged along with a group of health care professionals who were on a camp, while I went along only to take pictures of the graceful mud houses of the region.
And when I was standing outside one of the doors, this face popped out.
After looking around for a minute, he stepped over the threshold and proceeded down the street.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

one last dance.... Just for Aditi actually.

I was planning on writing an obituary. For my blog. You know along the lines of "May its soul rest in peace... Fondly remembered by.. etc etc."

Then Aditi tags me. So I put in one last post, and do the needful.

I am thinking about...
Food. My alter ego is a gastronome and gourmet cook.

I said...
um.... nothing since 6 in the evening, actually! That's the past 6 hours. Not counting the sorry-s and excuse-me-s in the shopping centre of course....

I want to....
Make a really good film to send to this conference in Tokyo.

I wish...
I could get myself to bake regularly!

I hear...
The whirring of my flatmate's fan.

I wonder....
why the sea is boiling hot and whether pigs have wings?
(Sorry.. was I supposed to write something profound... like world peace?)

I regret...
Not having gone to South America on the Rotary Youth Exchange in 1995.

I am...
A girl.
An architect.
Owner of a beautiful red bottle.
Owner of a pair of beautiful red shoes.
Sitting on a chair.
Lots of things as you can see...

I dance...
I dont. Cant remember the last time I did except occassionally wiggling my bum.

I sing...
Off tune, loudly, and old hindi film songs

I cry....
When I'm feeling very sad :(
And when I have been punched in the nose.

I am not always....
Entirely truthful. And its unpleasnt being aware of that.

I make with my hands...
lots of things... models, linoleum prints*, crochet pieces, and very rarely sketches

I write...
Research proposals.. at the mo.

I confuse...
Issues, matters, people

I need....
Some tender, loving care? And a neck piece to match a recent, expensive pair of earrings!

And finally...
The tough part. When your blog's been dead for 6 months, its difficult to know other bloggers to tag...
*deep in thought*

*still thinking*

Nope, I give up. No one I can think of to tag. I am reduced to just drooling over recipes from strange food blogs, so I have to unfortunately pass this up. I hope Aditi's other tags have been passing the buck on more succesfully....

(* The artwork in the link is'nt mine. Just to give an idea as to what lino-s look like)

And with these words, this blog breathed its last.
May its soul rest in peace.

Monday, January 23, 2006

the blog that went to sleep (a.k.a. LAST DAYS OF YATRA SUMATRA)

This blog went to sleep.

I sidetracked into film making for the semester, and the camera and film making dreams have been swallowing up precious hours. And from now on, my blogging is likely to be more intermittent than ever!

However, The blog has now woken up. And in a burst of enthusiasm, you are subjected to the last three days of the Sumatra trip.

I also need to wrap this up since plans for the Chinese New Year to be spent in Malacca are already shaping up!

We had left off where I was getting into the ferry at Teluk Delam, headed for Bukittinggi- a nice little hill town in the middle of the Minangkabau Highlands, almost where we had started our trip from. We got off the ferry, got into a 'turis' bus, and then got off 12 hrs later at our destination. We checked into Hotel Khartini (delux when compared to the beach hut in Nias!) and were joined by a fellow student, who is presently studying the evolution of traditional house form of the region.

bridge in bukittinggi

sianok canyon

woven bamboo and lace

cinnamon leaves in pink

rice field hike

Dr. Eko was in town with a bunch of his students. We had a great drive through the suburbs (for want of a better description) of Bukittinggi, and were a shown a great many examples of graceufll houses. We all shook our heads and tut-tut-ed in unison on the declining popularity and disrepair of the beautiful rumah gadang (as the Minang houses are called) in the region.

For the afternoon, it was suggested that we take a walk through the Sianok Canyon that cuts through the town. A verdant.. ummm... well canyon, with a stream trickling through it, it made for a beautiful walk, and we could see green volcano slopes in any direction. Two hours of climbing, occasionally-wading-barefoot-through-the-water and plucking-cinnamon-coffee-and-patchouli later, we reached Kota Gadang- a rather well to do looking village. The walls were woven bamboo, but every window was curtained with lace!

We left the village and took a hike through some rice fields. It was nearly sunset, and we headed back towards Bukittinggi. Post dinner, we watched a traditional Minang dance and music performance- I anticipated something cliched and touristy, but was pleasantly contradicted. The show was well worth watching. (Should you ever find yourself planning a trip to Indonesia, and then think of skipping the glamour of Bali or Borobudur and venturing to Sumatra, and then decide to stop by Bukittinggi, I would highly recommend this show... It takes place near the Jam Gadand or Clock Tower.)

We hired a car with two other Singaporeans, and drove off the take in all the tourist traps of Bukittinggi. We were shown a banana chip making factory, an embroidery workshop, manual coffee grinding, miscellaneous look out points, and at our request- some traditional houses and mosques. We got back to a tongue torching dinner of tahu goreng (fried tofu) with Padang chilli sauce.

great views...

hand ground coffee

the pagarruyung palace

minang mosques

We spent the morning souvenir shopping in Pasar Attas, a popular shopping street in Bukittinggi. Our last afternoon was giving up to visiting a major attraction in the region- a crater lake of reputed beauty.

We just had to see Danau Maninjau before we left Bukittinggi. Some claimed it better than Danau Toba, and we just had to see it to believe it. We again hired the car from the previous day, and set off for another spectacular drive. One of the major selling points for the lake is that being much smaller, it gives a better sense of being a crater lake that Danau Toba does. The other major selling point is 44 hair pin bends along the drive from the hills down to the water. We went for a short cycling trip around the lake. The lake spread to my right, rice fields lay ripe to my left, and hill slopes contained the view. As with everything we had seen before, perfect.

danau maninjau from lawang peak

views from the cycle seat...

and a perfect parting glimpse...

I got back to Singapore with my appetite for travel merely whetted. Malacca and Java will hopefully feature on this blog soon! Till then...

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

map that made headlines

Sorry to break the Sumatra series. But I din't think my limited audience would mind too much!!

I have linked to a Cartography blog in the side bar. And I know that not too many people would be following the link...
But I found another interesting map mentioned in there- the map that makes headlines. Literally.

Take a look.

map that makes headlines

Out of the many, many newspapers that I know exist in India, I find only the Times of India and the Maharashtra Herald mentioned. Hmmm....

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

DAY 9: Lazy on the Beach

From this point on, the trip had begun to taper off. (I say this not because my semester has started, and I dont have time for long long posts, but really, it had begun to seem like the end of the trip to me!)

The day was spent doing nothing. It was blistering hot, the beach was shining so that we couldnt look at it straight. The glare of the sand and the white of the waves was simply too much. I suppose all the sunshine was great after the rainy days we had seen in the past, but it also meant that we couldnt step out of the losmen. So, spent the day on the hammock, with Jeeves and a bottle of strawberry Fanta. We consumed some coffee, some fried noodles... and then some more coffee. After which it was time to leave.

We drove back to Teluk Dalam- the tiny port from which we had come. Having come too early, we settled into a small makan (food) place. The others had black coffee, while I killed time over a tepid Sprite. We were joined by two local school students. They said they often engaged tourists in conversation so that they could brush up their English! Happy to have a chat ourselves, we discussed the pros and cons of Nias tertiary education and other things, till it was time to get into the boat.

So into that ancient ferry again, for the last leg of the journey towards Sibolga, and then onwards to Bukitinggi.

Also, from this point on, the posts are going to get shorter and the pictures more in number! Yay...

the sunny beach...

our boat, in white and green

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Friday, January 06, 2006

DAY 8: In the Footsteps of Headhunters

These headhunters were the reason I came to Nias. Their villages are among the finest examples of wooden architecture in Indonesia, and were in fact one of the reasons why I thought of Sumatra in the first place. However, a small hitch lay in between. These villages were located in the back-of-beyond interiors of the island, and if I wanted to see the precious wooden houses, a 12 km trek was the only way there. Having no choice- and a huge sense of adventure at the moment- I agreed.

We were dropped off by motorbike as far as the motorable road went, a short distance from the village of Hilisimaetano. Niasian villages were usually built atop hills, for defense purposes, since the villages were in serious rivalry and stood in the business of hunting each others heads. The heads were used for dowry, among other things, and eagerly collected. Now before you think us interpid explorers for venturing into such violent lands, the Niasians have long since converted to Christianity and head hunting is a thing of the past.

Coming back to the villages, the houses are built shoulder to shoulder, and the resulting village is arranged in a linear fashion along a grand central street. This central street was used for shows of bravery by young men and council meetings in earlier times; all we saw today is clothes spread out in the sun. A flight of stone stairs indicates the start of the village. Bawomataluo had the grandest entrance to any space I have seen; as you stand on top of the stairs, a green valley spreads out below and the bay is shining at a distance. If ever a place 'commanded' a view, it was here.

The houses themselves are built on massive wooden stilts, suffieciently crossbraced to resist seismic activity. The living quarters are above, looking out onto the street through a slatted window. Steps tucked in between houses led inside. This ensemble was topped off with a tall sloping roof (like a witches hat to give you an idea). The king's house in Bawomataluo was huge; it's roof was the tallest, the living quarters most carved and the stilts the stoutest.

What was as much satisfying as seeing the houses was the walk through the forests. Stone paths that went through valleys, hills and paddy fields connected the villages with each other. We crossed rubber plantations, coffee bushes growing wild and bubbling stream. Exotic as this sounds, its a hard life- every crate of eggs and sack of rice has to be carried to the villages along these paths. No motorable road exists between the villages and we saw young and old alike trudging home with essentials loaded on their shoulders. For the uninitiated like me, I found the walk beautiful, but often too steep. As I huffed and puffed along, more than once did I think 'what the hell am I doing here'! But then stream would cross our track, and we'd plonk down there with our feet in the water to cool off...

We got back before sunset, Mission Nias accomplished.

Some random notes on the trek:
Hilisimaetano, Bawogosali, Hilinawalo, Orohondro, Siwalawa, Bawomataluo... for the record, this is the squence of villages visited. Let no one say that I did not give out useful information!
We forgot to breakfast, skipped lunch, and did the trek on one coconut water, and four bottles of water.
Niasians are among the best looking people I have seen anywhere. No kidding, Well built, flawless skin, and lovely features.
One of the villages is believed to have a 2 mt high stone penis. I did not see it!

And the last (utterly useless) note: after the villages, there was nothing left to see or do. I had no choice but to spend my remaining time in Nias on the beach, with coffee in hand.

our trekking route

nias village street

beneath the eaves

houses, shoulder to shoulder

thoroughfare between villages

kids we entertained

and some...

kings house in bawomataluo

grand steps up...

grand view down

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

DAY 7: Just Nias

We has barely stepped off the boat, when we had guys offering us rides to Lagundri Bay, the best place to stay in Nias and legendary as one of the best surf breaks in the world. We did take a ride, and it started to rain. We rode the length of south Nias enjoying beautiful views of the beach to one side and paddy fields to the other, and all the while getting soaked to the skin!

Nias was one of regions of Indonesia pretty badly hit by the tsunami and the earthquakes a intervals. Much of the tourist accomodation-known as losmen- lies along the beach, where the surfers and swimmers head, and all of this had been wiped out. The acoomodation was very basic- single roomed ,thatched huts on stilts- but they were gone and tourism had plummeted. One year later, the reconstruction process is inching along, but many of the losmen are yet to find their feet.

Nias is also known for its tribal wooden architecture and a megalithic culture. These villages are built further inland, on higher ground, and relatively earthquake proof. They survived the tremors and storms while the beach huts fell.

Is where we eventually took up residence. Seeing the deserted beach, looking a little sad a low tide, and seeing the very basic room, I once again began to wonder if this had been a good idea. But my worries soon turned on their head... and one of my most memorable beach stays had begun.

Kofi susu (ground coffee sweetened with condensed milk) and fried noodles was stomached. We would have liked to rush off to see the villages, but seeing the distances and lack of transport, better sense prevailed and we took a stroll along the beach- our only activity of the day. It was perfect for swimming, but being unprepared I resisted. A long walk later and nearing dusk, we got back to the losmen and ordered some more coffee.

I parked myself on my verandah and sat and watched the waves. It was really the kind of evening by the sea that one longs for. Where you sit with some coffee and Jeeves. And watch the tide come in. And see the sun set, and the moon rise, and six solitary lights come on in the distance. Till the coconut palms turn from green to silhouettes and night settles on the land. Where you sit idle, till the mosquitoes let you sit no more...

In short, the stuff that mid-office-week yearnings and perfect vacations are made off!

paddy fields to the right...

lagundri bay to the left...

and the perfect beaches of nias...
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