On the land of Waterfalls, Volcanoes and Earthquakes – Indonesia

Indonesia is a colourful country in Southeast Asia with more than seventeen thousand islands and many different ethnic groups, religions, culture and nature.

The islands of Indonesia lay around the Equator, this makes the climate tropical and the temperature and the length of daylight changes very few through the year. On the coastal areas the average temperature is 28 ºC, and in the mountains it can decrease until 20 ºC. The sunrise is changing between 6 AM and 6.30 AM, and the sun sets between 6 PM and 6.40 PM. In Java there is not a big nightlife, therefore we tried to adapt to the sunlight, wake up early and use the sunny hours. There are possibilities to go out in the capital, Jakarta, there are some bars in Yogyakarta and of course in Bali, but generally the alcohol is quite expensive everywhere in the country and you can only buy it in bars and specialized shops.

In Indonesia there is a rainy and there is a dry season. The monsoon generally lasts from November to March, while there is few rain from June to October, which makes this period the high season with more tourists and travelers, especially in August and September.

Wherever we go in Indonesia we can find a bit from its historical past.

The island of Java was inhabited by a subspecies of the Homo erectus, the early human fossils discovered here are also called the Java Man. Some thought the discovery represented a transitional form, the missing link between the apes and the humans while others said that it is an extinct side branch of the evolution. The current consensus of anthropologists is that it is a subspecies of the Homo Erectus, and it is scientifically known as Homo erectus erectus. Another subspecies of the Homor erectus, the Homo erectus ergaster is considered as the ancestor of Homo sapiens.

In 2003 several fossils were found in the island of Flores and they have been identified as a different, previously unknown species of the genus Homo, the Homo floresiensis (Flores Man).

You can learn more on this topic in the National Museum in Jakarta where you can see some archaeological findings as well.

The sea always played an important role in the life of the kingdoms and city-states, there were relevant trade routes towards Asia and Africa. The Buddhism and Hinduism reached the area through the same routes as well. Several dynasties raised, ruled and collapsed, letting behind such great monuments as the Buddhist and Hindu temples, Borobudur and Prambanan.

The Islam religion spread through the country between the 13th and 16th century, mixing with previous religions. By today the country became the first with the highest Muslim population (and the fourth country with the highest population after China, India and USA). Majority of the population is religious, the main religion in most of the islands including Java is Islam, while in Bali the 85% of the people are Hindus. The Balinese Hinduism differs from the Hinduism in India, simplistically because it includes local animism, ancestor worship and reverence for Buddhist saints as well.

From Europe first the Portuguese traders had permanent contact with the area in the 16th century, followed by British and Dutch traders. The Dutch established the Dutch East India Company (VOC). You can see the effects today on colonial architecture in Jakarta in the Oldtown and in the harbor and in Bali in Singaraja.

People from the archipelago started to develop a national consciousness as “Indonesians” at the beginning of the 20th century which triggered independence movements. During the World War II Japan occupied the area ending the Dutch rule. The country’s independence was declared after the surrender of Japan in 1945.

Thanks to the tropical climate the flora and fauna is very different from Europe and it gave a great experience to explore it. Our favourite day plan was to rent a motorbike and go around the area. And while there are some interesting cultural memories in the towns, the best was to leave the inhabited areas and go to the nature. In Java, close to Yogyakarta Kalibiru is worth a visit, while in Bali the waterfall hunt was very entertaining.

Indonesia’s archipelago is separated by the Wallace Line, which defines a border between two different zoogeographic realm. This means that on the western area of the country the fauna is largely of Asian origin, while on the eastern part is of Australasian origin. This difference was discovered by Alfred Wallace, British explorer, geographer, anthropologist, and biologist, co-discoverer of natural selection.
This second zoogeographic realm is also called Wallacea.

Wallace’s interest in natural history led him to be one of the first scientists to raise concerns over the environmental impact of human activity. This impact is still huge today. Luckily nowadays we can hear more about the issue and be more aware of the impact we cause especially regarding plastic waste. This is a great problem in Indonesia as well. We saw so many plastic waste thrown on the streets, in the forests, on the beautiful beaches as we have never seen before. It is very important to raise awareness all over the world, because the majority of the population doesn’t know about the consequences.

There are many sport activities which you can try in Indonesia. While at Nusa Penida and the Gili islands the snorkeling and scuba diving are popular and there are many surfers in Bali, you can do hiking in the volcanoes or sandsurfing in the sand dunes of Java.

There is a fact which shadows this amazing place and its beautiful nature and people and it is being part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. The Ring of Fire is a circle formed by borders of tectonic plates causing that there are many volcanoes in the area and the earthquakes are very frequent.

During our visit Mount Merapi in Java close to Yogyakarta and Mount Agung in Bali both were likely to erupt and their surroundings were closed from public. As well there were 4 strong earthquakes (6.4, 6.9, 5.9 and 6.9 Mw) close to the island of Lombok, which forced us to change our plans and to not visit this island and as well to avoid the Gili islands and long distance boat trips.

From the 400 volcanoes of the country 150 are active.
Two of the most violent volcanic eruptions in modern times occurred in Indonesia; in 1815 Mount Tambora in Sumbawa erupted killing 92,000 and in 1883, Krakatau, erupted killing 36,000 people. This eruption of the Krakatau volcano is the ever heard loudest sound on Earth which could be heard 5000 kilometers away. The eruption caused tsunami which arrived until the coast of Africa and America. One theory says that the famous painting, The Scream from Edvard Munch, Norwegian painter shows one of the spectacular sunsets of the following years after the eruption which could be seen all over the world thanks to the volcanic ash in the air.

On the place of the famous Krakatau volcano a new island rose from volcanic activity on August 1930. Recently the Anak Krakatau (“child of Krakatoa”) erupted on 22 December 2018, the southwest sector of the volcano had collapsed and triggered a tsunami in the area. The volcano lost the two-thirds of its height.

These issues are parts of the everyday life in Indonesia and still people are happy, garteful and very kind.

We visited Java, Bali and some of the smaller islands close to them. We returned to home with many experiences, we saw amazing places, but I don’t know if ever it is possible to say that someone saw everything what Indonesia has to offer. The nature is incredible, orangutans live in Sumatra and Borneo and dragons in Comodo and Flores, there are beautiful coasts, mountains, jungles and volcanoes and colourful fishes and coral reefs in the sea. You can find different cultures and traditions in each island or at the same island as well.

4-day trip in Morocco – Fes, Meknes, Volubilis and Rabat

Morocco is perfect for a getaway from the everyday life to experience the different, colorful Arabic culture and to find warm hospitality. Morocco is located in North Africa, at the Strait of Gibraltar, close to Spain. It is easily reachable from Europe thanks to the low-cost airlines, but it is hard to decide which part to visit. We chose the plain area of Fes and Rabat, but we will definitely return.

We wanted to visit Morocco for a long time because we had heard good experiences from our friends and we were interested in the different culture. Our expectations were high, but the experience was incredible. The people are very nice, the culture is very interesting and the architecture is amazing.

Last year we decided to postpone the trip because the trip would have been during the period of Ramadan and we wanted to see the daily life of the locals as well. This year we made the idea real at the long weekend of Easter, from 29 March to 2 April.

Our outbound flight went from Barcelona to Fes at the evening of 29 March and we returned from Rabat to Girona on 2 April. During our trip we spent a couple of days in Fes, we visited Meknes and Volubilis, and on our last day we went by train to Rabat.

FES

The Fes Sais International Airport has been renovated recently and it is very impressive. When arriving at the airport it is advisable to leave the plane quickly and go to the registration point to avoid waiting too long in the line. You will need to fill out a form about yourself and your visit before handing over your passport to the officer.

Our accommodation was one of the many riads in the medina of Fes. These accommodations are traditional Moroccan houses with an interior garden, turned into a guesthouse. They are really beautiful and I really advice to book a riad as your accommodation.

 

We reached our riad from the airport by taxi and after leaving our bags in the room, we went for dinner. Our host accompanied us and led us to a restaurant that he highly recommended, however at the end we chose the place next to, which looked very nice. Later on we saw our host eating at the same place as us. The restaurant was called Snack Malak. The food was delicious, we got huge portions and the guys from the restaurant were very friendly and welcoming, so we returned more times. We tasted beef and chicken prepared with different seasoning accompanied with rice and Moroccan salad, but my favorite was the Kefta Meatball Tagine.

Snack Malak
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Next day we had a tour in the medina with a guide to not get lost. The medina has several small streets, rarely following any logic and frequently ending at a door, so we didn’t have other choice but to turn back and start again. On our second day, when we had a walk on our own, we heard an expression many times from the locals: Fermé. First it sounds rude and we had the feeling that we were not welcomed, but actually they are only helping that the street was closed.

The medina is actually a big outdoor mall with many shops of different products: carpets, lamps, clothes, shoes, leather bags, objects from copper… The shops are organized by profile, therefore in a part of the medina there are leather products, in another copper workshops, and on other parts food market.

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There are two places within the medina which you can’t miss: the Tannery and the Seffarine Square.

Arriving in the Tannery you know that you are in the right place due to the smell. The leather preparation has a strong, not so nice smell, which you have to put up with in exchange of the unique experience of seeing the place. Once in the leather shop we received mint leaves to smell it during our visit.

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Being on Seffarine Square is very interesting because the process of how the coppersmiths make their goods can be followed at the entrance of their shops or at the middle of the square, it is very noisy though there.

 

 

 

We noticed that our guide had several friends around the town, and they were happy to show us their business and try to sell us something: leather products (bags, shoes, puffs, jackets), carpets, scarves. We loved it though when he showed us a school and the kids were very lovely singing for us.

 

After the tour we were very comfortable going up and down in the medina, where we felt like at home.

There is life out of the medina as well. It is not possible to visit the royal palace, but the main door itself is beautiful. The Garden Jnan sbil is a very nice park to rest a bit in a green area on the side of a lake, it is a real oasis.

Another great way to get some energy is to take a Moroccan mint tea. They offer this refreshment in every place. There are many rooftop terraces all around the medina, it is really enjoyable to take a glass of tea seeing the nice views over the town. Some nice places which we visited:

  • the rooftop of the Nejjarine Museum of Wooden Arts & Crafts
  • Nagham Cafe close to Grande Porte Bab Boujloud 
  • Cafe with view to the Seffarine Square

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We explored some nice spots around the medina where there is a nice panorama from the town. They are Tombeaux Des Mérinides and Merinide Necropole, where the locals also often are a bit away from the town so you can enjoy some family time. Unfortunately some people try to make a business here giving a guide which is not asked and expecting money in exchange.

 

Inside the medina the only option to move around is on foot, but when we went out we often grabbed a taxi, as it is an easy way to get somewhere and they are quite cheap. It is important to agree about the price before and to know more or less how much is the local price and when they try to trick. We once took a taxi and the driver didn’t know the way, so we had to give him the directions! In exchange we had a nice experience due to the sightseeing we got from him.

 

MEKNES AND VOLUBILIS

Volubilis is a ancient roman city close to Meknes. There are several ways to reach it starting with the advice we received from our host: go by taxi directly from Fes. We are more adventurous than that that’s why we decided to try the public transport instead. We took a train from the railway station Gare de Fès to Meknes, where we switched to the local bus until Moulay Idriss. From here it is still possible to go walking or take a taxi.

The railway service’s quality is good, we could travel comfortable and see the green landscape. There was a big crowd on the bus, lot of people, kids and luggage. Both the locals and we were curious about each other, I guess they were really surprised seeing tourists on the bus.

We didn’t spend a lot of time in Meknes, we wanted to have enough time for Volubilis, and Meknes didn’t seem as welcoming as Fes either.

 

By the time we reached Moulay Idriss, we were hungry, so we decided to have a tagine made from chicken and vegetables. We felt really welcomed, the cooker was very nice and the food was good.

Volubilis is stunning, a well preserved ancient city. The imagination has great space here, the base is there but our minds build up the rooms, houses, public buildings, streets and finally the whole city. I was impressed by the many mosaics, columns and arches. All of this is placed in a vivid green environment. We were in Morocco just after the rainy season and all along our train trips we could see so many different shades of green, the landscape of Morocco was really beautiful.

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On the way back to Meknes we joined another couple and a local man paying only 2 euros each one to get to Meknes by taxi. From Meknes we had the train tickets already paid back to Fes.

RABAT

We didn’t expect a lot from Rabat, as we didn’t find it between the main destinations of Morocco. Our surprise was even bigger when we realized that we loved it!

First impression from Rabat

We entered to the Medina through the Bab Chellah. The medina of Rabat is not as big, impressive and popular as the one in Fes. Probably that’s why I could get souvenirs much cheaper than in Fes.

Kasbah of the Udayas is a fortress right at the ocean’s coast. I think the photos can tell more about its beauty than myself.

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The Andalusian Gardens are located within the Kasbah of the Udayas and it is a nice, calm and beautiful place in Rabat, which is a must to visit. We loved to take a mint tea here, in Café Maure, mostly because of the stunning views and the nice decorations and atmosphere.

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We had lunch at Espace Hassan. The place looked really fancy from outside, then we weren’t sure whether to enter or not (we had our backpacks with us and we were concerned about high prices) or looking for another place. We shouldn’t have worried, they were very nice, the food was delicious and surprisingly affordable.

After lunch we visited the Hassan Tower and the Mausoleum of Mohammed V. Both buildings are very beautiful and nicely decorated in Moroccan style. The hundreds of columns of the incomplete mosque are impressive on the square next to the Hassan Tower. The freedom that they give to the visitors was really interesting, it is okay to walk around, sit, touch and even climb up to the columns!

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Rabat is amazing, and it has still many potentials as well, we did see many constructions, for example the Théâtre National Mohammed V or the Nouzhat Hassan Garden, which we couldn’t visit this time. We didn’t have time either to visit the Chellah, which is a medieval fortified necropolis in Rabat.

Our inbound flight took off from Rabat-Salé Airport, which is much smaller and has much less traffic than the airport of Fes. Unfortunately our Ryanair flight was delayed (as many other times), but luckily the transport between Girona airport and Barcelona was solved even though the late hours and in these cases, the shuttle waited for the flight and the passengers to arrive.

Budapest Map

A map of my favorite places to visit close to Budapest: monuments, museums, concerts, thermal baths, attractions, activities, fun, bars, restaurants, pastries, sport, nature and some secret places… 

If you visit Budapest for some days, or travel for a week or longer;

if you spend there your Erasmus semester;

if you live there and you want to try a new bar, restaurant or eat a good cake;

if you want to go out of town for the weekend; or

if you want to find the hidden treasures of the city.