Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘Java’

Food from the heart of Java

Javanese cuisine_1

Imagine an island seven degrees south of the equator, blessed with rich volcanic soil, where broad coastal plains rise to the hills and a chain of mystical 3,000-metre peaks. An island roughly the size of Greece, of sprawling cities, endless rice fields, and raw, otherworldly landscapes where you might find boiling lakes and plumes of steam billowing from the earth. This island is known as Java, and it is a food-lover’s paradise. Read more

Indonesia: dangerously beautiful

Indonesia Roundup_1

If we only believe the sensationalism of Fox News, CNN America and other media outlets, Indonesia is the kind of country a lot of people might want to avoid. Historically, it has made world headlines for all the wrong reasons – plane crashes, violent protests, terrorist bombings and large-scale natural disasters. Read more

Going basic in Banyuwangi


Overwhelmed. That is the feeling I get on arrival at the guesthouse on the outskirts of Banyuwangi. We have just finished a six and a half hour train ride from Surabaya, and the owner tells us we can get a better deal on a hike to Ijen if we decide to go that night – which means leaving at 1:00am. Read more

My first Idul Fitri

Idul Fitri_1

Indonesian TV stations these days have been peppering their news broadcasts with “suka-duka Idul Fitri”, a round-up of the positives (suka) and negatives (duka) over the long weekend. It has been a privilege to spend Idul Fitri, or Eid, with Bama’s family, and experience the celebrations firsthand. For me, the similarities between our home cultures have been brought into sharp focus – I now realise that this festival is a lot like Chinese New Year. Read more

Fasting for Ramadan, or “puasa”

Puasa Ramadan_1

Just before 5:30pm, we find ourselves in the middle of a restaurant packed with patrons. At the next table, more than 15 university students load up on white rice and a rich assortment of main dishes. Some stir their ice-cold drinks in anticipation of the coming feast. It is the perfect representation of a scene that my father described from the days before I was born, when my parents lived in Kuala Lumpur. Read more

Bandung moderne: Indonesia Art Deco


The 1930s were an age of unrestrained decadence. Radio had displaced newspapers as the most popular form of mass media; cinemas from Shanghai to Sao Paulo screened the latest in Hollywood films; ballrooms on both sides of the Atlantic echoed to the sounds of jazz and big band swing music; and the world seemed blissfully ignorant of the storm clouds brewing on the horizon.

Read more

Travel sketch: Yogyakarta

Jogja collage

Yogyakarta holds a small handful of short but vivid memories. The immense scale of Borobudur, its stupas carved in black andesite, rising from an emerald green countryside blanketed with palms; rows of hand-carved furniture lining a dusty street, puttering vehicles kicking up clouds of ochre; and standing wide-eyed at the foot of Merapi, beside a large sign warning of the danger ahead. This beautiful but lethal giant, at once life-giving and brutally destructive, was the first volcano I had ever seen. Read more

A taste of the Big Durian

“Indonesia huh? You going there to eat?”

The hairdresser chuckled at the thought.

I smiled and mentioned Mount Bromo, but not before admitting my excitement about the spicy cuisine. Nasi – rice – was perhaps the first word I learned in Bahasa Indonesia. This was followed by ayam and sapi – chicken and beef, cumi (squid), udang (shrimp), timun (cucumber) and eventually, terong (eggplant). Months ahead of the trip, Bama had told me about sambal, traditional chilli sauce with an untold number of variations. Read more

Rough and ready in Jakarta

My memories of that first trip to Jakarta, before the Asian Financial Crisis of 97 and Suharto’s fall from grace, are few and far between. I remember only specific details: the tiled roof of the international airport terminal, yellow-tinted water running out from a tap, and the two figures with outstretched arms on Tugu Selamat Datang – the ‘Welcome Monument’ built ahead of the 1962 Asian Games. Read more

Breathless at Mount Bromo

High up in the mountains of East Java, the village of Cemoro Lawang is a far cry from the heat and humidity of the island’s north coast. We are here a quarter after six on a Sunday night, searching for dinner along one of its two streets laid out in a Y-shaped pattern along the rim of the Tengger Caldera. Below our feet the ground is coated in a thin layer of fine volcanic dust, a sign of the active volcano residing on its doorstep. Read more