It was after 10 pm on a cold, wet night in Yogyakarta. I badly needed something to eat. It had been hours since I had that inflight meal of chicken satay wrap. Thanks to the rain, my scheduled 2.5-hour flight had turned to a 6-hour journey instead.
The storm and heavy downpour had made it impossible for the plane to land in Yogya's Bandara. After circling in the air for over 45 minutes, the flight had to backtrack and stop at Surabaya for over an hour, to refuel and wait for the storm to clear.
I call that crazy weather. The locals, however, regard the rainy Chinese New Year days as a lucky omen. Well, that was what Andi cheerfully told me – and this, after having to wait at the airport an additional 4 hours for me to arrive, having to exchange his good shoes for wet, squeaky flip-flops, and getting drenched as he ran in the rain to get the car.
That rainy night was my first time ever in Prawirotaman and the city of Yogya; and my first solo sojourn abroad. I was very hungry but not keen on walking out too far from the guesthouse. And so I asked the lady at the lobby if I could get some food sent to the room. Hah, unfortunately for me they only served breakfast.
So, I went out to the porch. The elderly guard hurriedly handed me an umbrella. The rain had softened down to a slight drizzle by then.
I walked slowly contemplating what to do next. As I looked across the narrow street. I could see bright lights coming from what appeared to be a cafe opposite the guest house.
I squinted my eyes to read the signage. Money Laundry? Well, not exactly your run-of-the-mill name for an eatery – I thought. From where I was, the place didn't look as dodgy as it sounded. So I decided it was the best bet in that kind of weather and time of night.
I crossed the street and entered the cafe quickly, eager to escape the damp and dark. Its entrance reminded me of the anjung (porch) of a traditional Malay house. Wide and airy, with no walls. 2 poles stood vertically to the left and right of the wooden steps.
The place was brightly lit. Over to the right, a long rectangular table with several high stools stood facing the street. The cafe's wooded interior and distressed pastel colored furniture heightened its rustic vintage look and feel.
Money Laundry was practically deserted except for 3 men sitting casually in the corner. They smoked and chatted loudly in a mixture of English, Indonesian and smatterings of Korean. There were several bottles of the homegrown Bintang Beer (Star Beer) on their table.
A lone waiter-cum-bartender stood at the bar, doing nothing. Several menu booklets lay stacked on the counter. Behind the bar I saw a shelf lined with clear tall glasses, big circular jars; tiny espresso cups and large coffee mugs. Tucked in between the glass jars an unlikely find, a shiny white ceramic maneki-neko (the welcome cat), it’s left paw moving up and down, beckoning at me.
I smiled at the waiter as I sat down at the square table facing him. From beneath his thick mustache, he smiled back. He reached for the menu and quickly walked over to get my order.
The menu items were as equally interesting as the cafe's name. The menu was basically a jumble of nationalities – including even sushi and sashimi as part of the list. And this despite the cafe being not the slightest bit Japanese but for the maneki-neko.
At this place with its quirky strange name, I had a mug of the most delicious cafe americano. And I ordered the cheapest snacks - the garlic bread. It was toasty, salty and tasty.
I kept sneezing as I ate the garlic bread, and wondered why, until I realized later (after finishing almost half of contents) that the rim of the plate had been sprinkled generously with white pepper.
Literary travels - my love of reading has brought me to so many faraway and unfamiliar places, even way before I learn to appreciate the joys of traveling. Just like visiting and experiencing a place for yourself, reading often brings up a myriad of emotions from the stories of others.
This year, I made a promise to read more books in Malay. And one of my choices was Andrea Hirata's Lasykar Pelangi. Through his compelling first book, Andrea Hirata wrote about his life and growing up in the small island of Belitung, located in the Java Sea.
This was the first time that I heard of the island. And the extraordinary feat of the children of Belitung, to rise above their destitute lives - made them unforgettable.
Today, the whole world heard the name Pulau Belitung. An Air Asia Indonesia flight QZ8501, with 155 on board, has been missing since the morning. It was enroute to Singapore from Surabaya. And its last known location was in the vicinity of the island.
I hope the next time I hear the name Pulau Belitung again, may this obscure island brings us good tidings.
Coming from Malaysia, a paddy field is something I'm used to seeing all the time. But, before Tegalalang, I have never seen a paddy field on a hill terrace.
Paddy in Malaysia is planted on flatlands. So, a visit to a hill terrace paddy plantation as part of our Bali trip, sounded pretty interesting.
The drive to Tegalalang from Tanah Lot took over an hour. The road was narrow and winding. Occasionally, we would see farmers selling their produce by the roadside.
It was uphill most of the way, and the air grew cooler as we got nearer to our destination. To enter Tegalalang, we paid a small amount of entrance fee.
Tegalalang was worth the drive. Dhana stopped by the hill top - from where we stood, we could see a vast sea of green sliced into slivers of paddy plots by the terrace cuts. Hannah and I looked for a suitable spot to sit down and sample a panoramic view of the hill terrace.
Of course, one could get a package with hands-on lessons on paddy planting from the locals. But being the city slickers that we are - we didn't want to go down to the paddy fields and dirty our shoes!
With that, there was nothing else to do, except to get high on the many shades of green! *wink*
Meet the gate keepers to the Hindu temples - the Dwarapala!
Dwarapalas are fearsome looking statues. They were one of the things that I found fascinating in my travel to Bali. To me, they are both menacing and beautiful, at the same time.
Dwarapalas are demonic-looking, with big, bulging eyes and snarling expression. They would always hold a weapon, in most cases, a club. True to their role as guardians to the temple deity, they are portrayed in a warrior-like stance, ready to strike the enemy.
I love the meticulous details on the statues. The head gears, armors (if you can call the ceremonial dressing, that), bracelets to the anklets - all a reflection of the artisans' mastery and patience.
Safiza is a Travel Blogger, Common Reader, Book Hoarder, Art and Nescafe Tarik Lover.