My umbrellas sing the loveliest duet. Can you hear them?
Santorini / Kuala Lumpur
2016 / 2017
My umbrellas sing the loveliest duet. Can you hear them?
Santorini / Kuala Lumpur
2016 / 2017
I’m a junkie, a travel junkie. My only rehab is out there and the more I go out there the more addicted I become. I guess I will always need a fix to get fixed!
Bromo was just a couple of weeks ago, it is becoming apparent that my ability to endure between-travel intervals has reduced significantly more than I realised. Looks like I need that travel dope shot in the arm more frequently now.
It’s amazing how the thought of travelling again brings a certain zest to my life and just as I bought the ticket to that next random destination it feels like it was only yesterday that I went away and came back the last time. The excitement begins. Once again. No long haul flights required, flying out to the country next door would do. In fact, flying out of town to anywhere without a passport would do.
This was my first time in Jogja. Comparatively, I feel better connected with Surabaya but Jogja has her own appeal and the art scene bought me in hands down, I like both Surabaya and Jogjakarta for different reasons the way I belief every city or place has a reason to be liked. It is so easy to like them all when you focus on what makes you happy, well, what’s the point of travelling if you indulge in looking for reasons not to like a place. I was lucky that my random travel dates coincided with Jogart, the annual contemporary art show and exhibition that conveniently found a slot in my open itinerary after the must-do temple visits. The art spaces and hip cafes are reasons enough for me to swing by Jogja again sooner or later.
It’s amazing how a single city offers two amazing man-made structures to visit – two different temples, two different stories. After a back-to-back visit to both I can’t stop thinking which experience resonates better, a Hindu or Buddhist temple? I have absolutely no bias here, it’s all about the stories of humanity and them being exhibits of “interchange of human values over a span of time” as described by the UNESCO plaque at the walkway to the Borobudur.
The Borobudur may appear more majestic and pomp but I somehow found Prambanan more interesting. Built in the 9th. century, the Prambanan temple was to honour Lord Shiva. The temple collapsed during a major earthquake in the 16th. century and was restored by the Dutch in 1930. It is ironic that a temple built to honour Shiva the destroyer and transformer was itself destroyed (by an earthquake) later. Built in the same century as the Prambanan, the Borobudur is the world’s biggest Buddhist temple with 72 Buddha statues each seated in a perforated stupa surrounding the central dome, a feature I like most. The temples of Prambanan are like 3-D ancient books with amazingly well preserved carvings on the outer walls.
Clearly I like the story of Prambanan’s ironic destruction and restoration 400 years later and the stories it keeps on telling just by standing there battered but unperturbed by its vulnerability. Civilisations come and go but it is so easy to behave as if ours is the only one that matters. Perhaps in the future the remnants of our civilisation will be nothing more but a tourist attraction with lessons attached to it mostly missed out of ignorance as humanity once again press the repeat button of history.
Walking the streets of Jogjakarta discovering graffitis is such a delight. Some may argue the artfulness of graffitis but I found so many beautiful ones here. I saw a particular one on a rusting zinc sheet that made me cringe inside knowing that the beautiful image on it will only last for so long to be appreciated. This I saw while in the Grab car on the way back to the hotel, I tried taking a photo in the moving car but it was too blurry to be worthy of sharing here.
Somewhere in Jogjakarta, lost in the streets and in the colours of the graffitis it dawned on me that all my little travel adventures are actually one, the biggest one there is – life. I’m glad I did not wait blindly thinking that one big adventure needed to happen to define it. I’m glad I did not sacrifice the so called smaller ones to make way for the biggest because the biggest adventure is already here, all I need to do is live it. Living it means my 3-day adventure in Jogja is little merely because of partition of time and I need to take the partition away to make it whole and become what it should be – part of the big adventure. There are no little adventures, only one. Live it Joey.
Jogjakarta, 12 June 2017
I’m more me when I’m out here. I hope this will not make all of you less you when I’m back.
Jogjakarta, 10 June 2017
Sharing my article on travel and art as published on 18 June 2017 @ http://www.dailyseni.com
A self-proclaimed gypsy is what I am – a traveler of time and space. I travel as often as I can with air wagons by the name of Boeing and Airbus, I travel through people in the name of beautiful positive minded strangers whenever I get the opportunity to meet them and I travel through art. Art allows me to travel whenever I want, no setting aside travel budget, no leave application, no detailed preparation and packing – just time and art-state-of-mind.
My solo travel last September gave me the realization how travel can do so much good for my soul. When out there, solo or not, be completely there and embrace the adventure fully as a true traveled would.
It is no-brainer how you travel space with physical travel but how do you travel time? Perhaps the thoughts of visiting museums and historical places jumped quickly into your minds but that is elementary. The stories of the soul of the city are being told in museums but it does not reside there. The soul of a city is out there, it can’t never be found through literature and exhibits at the museums, it will reveal itself by roaming the streets and ideally, by getting lost in it.
Historical locations are great but a city is not made of a certain buildings, streets or landmarks. See more of how they exist in the cityscape between the old and new, think about when, why and how they were built, think about what used to be there at the very site before that, think about what had to ungraciously bow out of the city to make way for the sky scrappers and malls (if that was the case). It is only then that we get a clue, a feel of the city – what was there, how much of what that will remain in the future – in the tunnel of time. My example is concrete jungle biased but the principle is the same for any location be it the empty site of an ancient ruins or the wilderness in some remote location.
Getting to know the city or a location means nothing without any interaction with the inhabitants, the people carry a lot about the past more than they know it. The ability to ask the right questions is a prerequisite for a true traveller, a question can journey into the past and future, that’s how you travel time, through the people, through fragments of long histories that are there in their memories that sometimes need patching up, stories of yesteryears that are more personal, reminiscences of joys and regrets, and hopes of tomorrow.
Travelling through people has another added dimension – their travel stories. You travel through their stories of travel adventures and you relive your own as you share with them yours. What I learnt during my travel last September was that your next-country-to-travel list grows as you travel, inspired by the stories of fellow travellers. You may strike off one or two destinations when you go out there to explore but it is highly likely that you end up adding more to your list by the time you reach home. Nothing bad about it for a true traveller, it feeds the spirit of wanderlust.
The easiest way to travel time while travelling is through art (and culture), through literature, paintings, performing arts and all there is in the bricks and mortars and flesh and blood of a city and its dwellers. Some may say they are not artsy-fartsy to do this, I’ll say, all it takes is a curious mind of a traveller. Tourists are less curious.
I love being lost when I travel. Being lost like this is like collaborative art where the place, people and I, all merged together as if the canvas, the colors and painter becomes one and the work of art is the beautiful feeling of a floating belonging to a place that is foreign yet welcoming and comforting. It’s like seeing something that others don’t in an abstract painting, you feel like you know the painting better with it but others feel the same by seeing something else that you don’t. It’s like finding a piece of myself hidden somewhere in the city, while another can only be found somewhere else and I need to keep on going not knowing where the final piece will be found.
Coming back to travelling through people, art can be travelled through people too. People you meet during your travel and people you meet in your own city, locals and foreigners can be artists and if not, there is also a chance that they enjoy the same interest in art as you do. There is always something to talk about and share when you meet people during and after your travel. I suppose travelling itself is an art if you put passion into it.
My interest in art, especially in writing and painting has always been there. Plaque by the need to conform to the society standard and guilty of being sucked into self-en-slavery in the name of making a living, the interest in writing and painting remained untouched. Many attempts to write and paint over the years failed as making a living as what I have gone through left me uninspired. I’m back to writing and painting devotedly now. My spiritual journey has led me to being a calmer person and my indulgence in art brings me more calmness. The beautiful thing about this is calmness inspires me creatively even more and as I act upon my creativity more calmness presents itself. This kind of enlightenment is simply amazing.
I’m an old-fashioned gypsy, I imagine wooden wagons and horses as my way of travelling so spaceships and teleports seem really out of place but then again, they best describe the point I’m trying to make. When writing and painting I travel through time as well as space. They are my spaceships that allow me to travel within me as far and as deep as my imagination takes me, across the universe inside me. They are my teleports that can send me anywhere in time when I write and make me lose track of time when I paint. If time is an illusion then art is my collusion with illusion. Perhaps this will make sense to Einstein.
Everybody has their spaceship and teleport of choice and mine happens to be writing and painting. I believe that true art is ego-less. It is not about who is better – it does not matter who owns a better spaceship and teleport. Art to me is a celebration, a celebration of humanity in the name of love, peace and harmony. There is no better art, just better celebrated art because more can relate to it be it in the most common or most bizarre of ways. Share with me your spaceships and teleports. I’m in the mood to celebrate hard.
This is piece from Seni on Sunday, a weekly column where we invite guest writers to share their two sens about art. As an art advocate, we believe the public must be empowered to appreciate and express the arts. This is a safe space for sharing, in hopes that it would encourage and initiate arts discourse within contemporary Malaysia. The views and opinions expressed does not necessarily reflect Daily Seni’s stand on the matter.
This week we feature Zukarnine S. (aka Jeepseajoey) – a gypsy looking for himself and home between long travels and flights. He copes with his mundane corporate work by travelling on a whim – solo or with kindred spirits – to recharge, usually in his trusty pair of Tarik Jeans denims. Otherwise he reads, listens to jazz or paints. Follow him @jeepseajoey on Twitter and Instagram.
I have fallen in love with more places all over the world than people.
Some people travel the Milky Way to find themselves. Me? I’m happy to be myself here on earth catching sunrise over the caldera.
I think I’m finally getting it.
Oia, Santorini, Greece
22 Sep. 2016
Bukit King Kong sunrise observation deck 5.05am
The observation deck by the cliff was not crowded. We were greeted with the petty trader’s table-full display of colorful instant hot drink packets and snack packages of various brands at the opening of the square concrete deck as if guarding it. A few local looking young men were standing near the makeshift stall, not quite sure who they were. There were 10 to 15 people on the deck, a few camera-mounted tripods were all ready pointing to where I assumed where the sun will make her appearance, northeast to the deck.
The platform was big enough to offer a good spot for us despite space taken by the early bird shutterbugs. It was quite dark at the deck. The crescent moon that was perfectly visible seemed to be smiling contentedly despite being less successful in lighting up the morning sky, as her full self would be able to. Looking outward in the crescent moonlight from the deck makes you feel like you were floating. Looking downward I saw a glowing caterpillar moving in the dark, the 4WD convoy was on the move for the sunrise. The stars were not generously sprinkled but with the clear sky and dry weather unlike the day before as we were told, a bit of a discount with the twinkles seemed more than reasonable. The occasional gentle cold wind blowing in the dark seemed equipped with night vision feature as it found its ways to seep into all the tiny openings of our scarves, jackets and jeans with ease, I got gloves in my knapsack, was glad I did not underestimate the temperature up there. Gloves on, skullcap adjusted to properly cover my ears, time for some hot drinks.
Hot drinks seemed to taste much better in the cold, sipping my hot mocha I watched what was visible of Bromo, yes, Bromo, not Mt. Bromo any longer, we became friends at that point. The introduction was yet to be completed but it won’t be long till sunrise then. Most faces on the deck were slightly more visible with the light from their mobiles, most of them were looking at their phones, me included. As I sipped the bottom of my mocha that was no longer hot as I wished it to be, I saw more light. It was slowly turning brighter and then, north to the deck I saw it for the very first time in better light, the peak of Bromo. It appeared humbly majestic among the clouds that seemed to be guarding it with love and care, united in serenading the peaceful sound of solitude. The clouds reminded me of my favorite storyteller, she described them as giant cotton candy, this one looked flattened and pierced in the middle by the peak of Bromo that was puffing more candy into the sky in super slow motion from afar. The fume from the live crater of Bromo looked thicker and whiter – sulfur laced cotton candy, I saw it for the first time with my naked eyes. There was not much cotton candy in the sky that morning, only a little, way up above the crater, little as if they understood that there was no point in competing with the guardian clouds of Bromo, as if they surrendered but yet won.
More and more people arrived at the deck. More and more light appeared. Sunrise was near. Way above the horizon the crescent moon was still clearly visible as if waiting for the sun to arrive. And then she said, “Let’s listen to Bromo (the song by Bonita and the Hus Band)”. My favorite storyteller brought along her splitter for us to listen with our earphones. There we were, waiting for the sunrise to arrive, the sky started to turn to my favorite tone of blue, the kind of tone that can only be found on the palette of the morning sky moments before the sun says hello. The crescent moon looked on patiently as the horizon turned reddish and yellowish coloring the arrival of day with yet another unique hue across the horizon and just as if the horizon was warm enough for it to arrive, she made her grand entrance, silently as usual. As the sky turned brighter we saw Bromo in different lights and shades repeatedly as if seeing it for the first time over and over again, all this as we listen to Bonita’s Bromo, over and over again.
Bromo or Rinjani? “Rinjani”, answered my favorite storyteller.
But there we were, catching both the sunrise and the crescent moon simultaneously together with music in our ears as beautiful as the weather – aligned perfectly with the Universe in the presence of one great witness – Bromo of East Java.
Sometimes the question is more important than the answer.
As daylight took over completely, it felt as if my existence in the now has been re-set, I felt refreshed inside out. I was contented to celebrate my spirit of wanderlust by embracing solo travel but having an awesome companion for this adventure is simply amazing. Moments ago I witnessed her smiles in countless shades of sunrise sunlight, I may have been busy capturing moments on the camera but those captured in my mind are super precious. I love the unspoken moments that we shared bonded by the crescent moon, sunrise and a live volcano. I think the best kind of connection is the unspoken ones and I shared this connection like never before here in the presence of a volcano named after a god.
Bromo is nothing like the Everest or Kilimanjaro, not that I’ve been to both but the moments captured here made me feel like I was on top of the world. I like how her eyes smiled when she smiled, I like how the curve of her lips said so much by not saying a thing. I like the way she knew that I knew that she was happy being with me as I was happy being with her. Truthfully, at first I was hesitant to put much of this emotion here, holding back afraid of showing too much but then I remembered, she said “You need to be who you are when you write”, otherwise, “The reader would feel something is missing”. I have to agree with her, these are my moments, what is a nomadic hunter of moments if one deprived oneself of the sweetness of sharing them. We celebrate the adventures of life when we travel, when the cosmic forces decided to present you a companion for it, you embrace it. There is nothing like having a storyteller travel companion that carries the nomadic spirit of Chatwin who keeps on surprising me by telling me new things that I don’t know about myself.
As we walked away for the observation deck of Bukit King Kong I remembered that I had forgotten to see the face of the King Kong stone that gave the hill its name, I smiled and said to myself, missed items during travel is the Universe’s way of saying that you will return, just as how I missed my boat to Mykonos from Santorini last September. I’ll meet King Kong next time, as I will set foot on the sands of Mykonos.
Ride down and travelling through the sea of sands 7.30am
The Ojek ride down to Bukit Cinta was even more fun, less cars and bigger smile all the way. We hopped onto our 4WD with lesser rush and joined the train of 4WDs rolling downhill with anticipation. The road was bumpy as we reached the beginning of the sea of sand and the ground was not flat as what I saw in the pictures. The terrains were water corroded, the drain shaped ground channels water when it rained. The sight of the sea of sand was amazing, the sea was greyish brown flanked by hills and mountains all around. The air was misty with a mix of flying dusts from the exodus of 4WDs running towards the live crater of Bromo. From afar we saw a patch of parked 4WDs ahead, I presumed that was where we were heading.
The driver stopped at the main body of the congregation of the 4WDs. The sight of the incoming 4WDs was like a scene from a movie I can’t recall. Apparently there were thousands of them on that day I was told. We walked the sands slowly as if absorbing the experience slowly so that nothing was missed and almost immediately we saw that magical arch of a pale rainbow, no strands of colors, just smoky white. I had never seen anything like it. It was amazing. Many pictures taken as expected, IG worthy pictures, this was how my IG caption looked like for the post:
Have you aver witnessed a pale rainbow? This one is from the volcanic ash (and mist). Pale as if the eruption killed the colors and what is left is a pale arch that refuses to give up on celebrating life.
The pony ride to the crater 8.05am
The decision to take the pony ride was made even before we arrived. Riding through the sea of sands to the foot of the crater hill looks cool in pictures I saw before the trip. The caretaker asked her to take the dirty-white pony but as if she knew what I wanted, she asked me to take it instead. The pony was beautiful. He had patches of light brown on his body, the turquoise saddle pad created a beautiful contrast. She got on her black pony with a little help and off we rode slowly towards the crater. I like how she wore my blue paisley designed bandana with brown edges around her neck. All seemed perfect, the day, down to the color scheme and all. We rode on without much conversation, just beams of smiles, too many to recall but never too overwhelming to capture in my mind.
The crater foothill 8.48am
We arrived at the foothill after about 40 minutes later. There were many makeshift stalls selling drinks and snacks all around, we took a short break before starting our climb up the steps, more than 200 of them. The cement stairs looked solid. It was designed to have two separate lanes, the one going up on your left hand side and the one on the right to go opposite. The climb was slow because of the crowd but not that tiring. She looked a bit worn out but did not complain. Upon reaching the top before seeing the bottom of the crater we heard the growl of the crater as if mumbling to itself endlessly, as we stepped closer to the safety railing we saw the bottom from where the thick white cotton candy comes out from. She was extra quiet siting by the railing, she looked a bit tired and occupied in her mind. She said she was okay and I let her have her space. More unspoken moments, just the mumbling sounds of the crater to fill the audio space, unusual but not scary…
We reached the 4WD at around 10.00am. So many moments captured since rushing to catch our ride about 8 hours ago. Everybody felt hungry, time to leave, time for breakfast.
The breakfast at Café Lava, around 11.o0am
The drive downhill was quick, as always it always felt faster coming back. Café Lava was nice. We helped ourselves with the buffet. I can’t remember when it started exactly but the conversation with Dian was really something. We spoke about energy, spiritualism and healing as if we were high on something. My storyteller was unusually quite, listening with fascination as Dian and me indulged in our discussion and sharing of experiences. She was intensely focused but I was sure, not judging. She knew that I could talk about the Universe for hours on.
As decided, we head to Madakaripura waterfalls, a story I will share some other day.
Back in Surabaya 11.00pm
The journey back gave some quiet moments in our minds. Twelve hours and we captured countless awesome moments together. The twelve-hour adventure saw us riding on a car, 4WD, motorcycle, pony and climbing up the stairs. The twelve-hour adventure saw us riding on the emotions and moments like never before.
Two nomadic souls, one sweet short god-name mountain adventure and a faceless angel called Sophie.
Rushed down to the lobby of Four Points, the tour guide was smiling and calm, jumped into the car, the driver look indifferent, all was good. All good for Bromo – relieved, smile.
Driving out of Surabaya to Sukapura 21.10am
Dian the tour guide was pleasant and informative. She carried a certain kind of energy, one that I need not stay away from. She shared the folklore of Bromo – a tale of love, deceit, the impossible and immortality. She shared the stories of the old and new Surabaya, she shared tales of the journey between Surabaya and Bromo and the people who passed through it. The journey to Sukapura was pleasant on the highway, the bitumen condition was good for a smooth ride but the overtaking on the left side was a bit too tricky to get used to. With no more questions coming from me, Dian’s pause in her tour guiding talk led to a long silence… all wandered in their minds, I can’t wait for Mt. Bromo… all dozed off as we travelled into the night.
Not too sure how long we dozed off but soon after waking up we took a left turn to a more populated area with houses and shops to the left and right built close to the road. There were many 4WDs by the roadside. A few guys waved their hands seeking attention and offered their 4WD services as we passed by them. The car was climbing a gentle slope when Dian said, “ We change to 4WD here”. The driver negotiated the narrow road with colorful 4WDs sometimes on both sides of the road as we went uphill slowly. Within minutes we arrived at the meeting point. Apparently the 4WD was waiting somewhere nearby by the roadside instead.
The car rolled not too many meters away down the gentle slope from the meeting point before stopping next to two 4WDs parked by the left of the roadside. One of them was our ride. My eyes were set on the dark blue 4WD instinctively knowing that we were suppose to take that one. Yes, the blue one was the one. I tried recalling the color of the other 4WD as I write but strange, I have no memory of it. We hopped onto our dark blue 4WD, I chose the side seat behind the driver and off we go, destination – Pananjakan.
“The highest point to catch the sunrise is Penanjakan”, said Dian. The second highest, Bukit King Kong and a few hundred walking distance meters lower, Bukit Cinta. We travelled up the slopes with the sight of many 4WDs ahead and behind us and many more by the roadside. They were in various happy colors of red, blue, yellow and green and many more in various shades. The sight of this and the feeling of rushing up the hill as if there was not enough sunrise for all made the bumpy ride with occasional sudden rough turns that made holding on to the seat necessary, bearable. The in-the-head auto replaying breathtaking images of Mt. Bromo from pre-trip googling helped too.
The feeling of being chased by the 4WDs behind us seemed real. The fiercely beaming headlights of the 4WDs trailing us magnified the feeling especially when you sit in the dark at the back of a bumpy moving 4WD. You get excited and in the days of social media you clicked away to capture the moment hoping to get the best picture for your next post. After much effort my I-phone photo album got filled with blurry and badly lit pictures. Deleting bad shots on a bumpy ride was not a problem.
Bukit Cinta 4.25am
The 4WD moved slower as we got into a bottleneck. There was a row of shops on the left side of the road mostly selling hot drinks and snacks, gloves and beanies and souvenirs. There were also warm jackets for hire. There were many people walking all over the place in colorful winter clothing, all looking eager but cold by the way they wrapped their bodies and necks. After our washroom break Dian said that it was not possible to proceed beyond Bukit Cinta to go to Bukit King Kong. It was a local long weekend that day. Increased crowd means clogged traffic. Dian advised that the only way to go to Bukit King Kong was by Ojek, the local motorcycle taxi. Taking the motorcycle meant the option to go all the way to Penanjakan was opened. However, the Ojek man said Bukit King Kong was a better option especially that morning with the long weekend crowd. Naturally, there was additional cost for the Ojek and if he was not interested to take more money to take us to Pananjakan that is farther away and will cost more then I took it that he was sincere in his recommendation. So, it was Bukit King Kong by Ojek.
The motorcycle ride up was fun, I have a thing for wind-blowing-in-my-face rides. We zigzagged through the vehicles and crowd, not too slowly but yet not too fast to be in danger. The Ojek driver must have done that a gazillion times. I can’t remember the last time I took a motorcycle ride. I was having so much fun with the motorcycle ride so much so that I can’t remember how long the ride was before reaching Bukit King Kong. My guesstimate would be around 20 minutes.
Upon getting off the motorcycle as it halted Dian said that the place was with unusually less people, many got stuck at the bottleneck of Bukit Cinta. Yes. It was a good decision to Ojek there. We immediately took the steps near where we got off our motorcycle up the slope to the observation deck of Bukit King Kong. The leisurely walk up the slope was pleasant. The drop of temperature was clearly felt as we made our way through the cemented pathway in the dark. It has been awhile since I last went somewhere in winter, my rusty in built thermometer told me that the temperature was in the middle teen celsius.
(To be continued – final part)