Out of the Archipelago

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Asia, India, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand
Peppercorns, Kerala

Peppercorns in Kerala

After three months exploring Indonesia, from Sabang (Indonesia’s westernmost city) to the Banda Islands (where nutmeg originates) in the eastern part of the country, James and I traveled across Southeast and South Asia to continue retracing the ancient Spice Route. The journey took us to three other countries in Southeast Asia, also three in South Asia, including two countries I had never been to before: India and Nepal.

Even though the Spice Route is the main theme for this six-month trip, our journey is not strictly limited to trading ports and spice plantations. In most places we ventured further beyond the original Spice Route to explore historical sites in each country, which later provided me with a better understanding and knowledge of the deep connections among nations in the region long before the Europeans arrived – which are rarely mentioned in history books at school. I am now in Pokhara, Nepal in the final week of this six-month long Spice Odyssey. Here are the highlights of the rest of our journey, from Malaysia to Nepal.

MALAYSIA

We visited Penang and Malacca not only for their historical importance as major trading ports in Southeast Asia during colonial times, but also the multicultural scenes in both places. Thanks to merchants and immigrants from China, India, Arabia, Europe, and various islands in the region who came to find their share of fortune, Penang and Malacca’s cultures and dishes today reflect their long history as melting pots in the region.

Apart from historical and cultural reasons, we also went to Malaysia due to practical reasons as James had to leave Indonesia every 30 days when his visa on arrival expired.

Malacca's Christ Church in the Dutch Square

Malacca’s Christ Church in Dutch Square

World-Famous 'Little Children on a Bicycle' Mural in Penang

The Famous ‘Little Children on a Bicycle’ Mural in Penang

City Hall, Penang

City Hall, Penang

... Clan House, Penang

Cheah Kongsi, the First Hokkien Clan House in Penang

Nasi Kandar, A Taste of India in Penang

Nasi Kandar, A Taste of India in Penang

Kerabu Kay, A Peranakan Dish from Penang

Hong Bak, A Peranakan Dish from Penang

SRI LANKA

Sri Lanka was our next destination, chiefly for one particular spice. It is the source of Cinnamomum verum, true cinnamon, a fact not known by European traders until the Portuguese arrived in 1505. Our two-week exploration of the island nation started in a beach town called Hikkaduwa, our base to do a day-trip to Madhu Ganga where the traditional processing of cinnamon (from bark to rope and oil) is still practiced by the locals.

We went to Galle afterwards which has been a major trading port on the southwestern corner of the island even before the Portuguese sailed into the Indian Ocean. Then we continued our journey to Kandy in the heart of Sri Lanka, from where we did multiple day-trips to some of the nation’s most important historical sites in Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya, and Dambulla, collectively known as the Cultural Triangle.

Our journey on the island ended in its biggest city, Colombo, a multicultural and increasingly sophisticated city which has been witnessing an increasingly laid-back attitude towards tourists after decades of tight security due to the civil war.

A Quieter Side of Hikkaduwa

A Quieter Side of Hikkaduwa

Processing Cinnamon, Madhu Ganga

Traditional Cinnamon Processing, Madhu Ganga

Nissanka Latha Mandapaya, 12th Century 'Dancing Pillars' in Polonnaruwa

Nissanka Latha Mandapaya, 12th-Century ‘Dancing Pillars’ in Polonnaruwa

Abhayagiri Dagaba in Anuradhapura, Built with Almost 3 Million Bricks

Abhayagiri Dagaba in Anuradhapura, Built with Almost 3 Million Bricks

View from Sigiriya

View from Sigiriya

The Exterior of Dambulla Cave Temple

The Exterior of Dambulla Cave Temple

Temple of the Tooth, Kandy

Temple of the Tooth, Kandy

Taal (Palmyra) Juice, Anuradhapura

Taal (Palmyra) Juice, Anuradhapura

Sri Lanka's Old Parliament Building, Colombo

Sri Lanka’s Old Parliament Building, Colombo

THAILAND

We went to Bangkok as well because there was no direct flight from Sri Lanka to our next destination, Myanmar. However instead of just staying one night at or near the airport, we opted to stay in Silom at the center of the city where quality street food was just a few steps away from our guesthouse.

It was my third time in the city, but James’ first, so obviously we decided to visit its most famous site: the Grand Palace. We took the ferry and cruised along the Chao Praya River to get to Rattanakosin Island, the location of the city’s jewel. Despite the relatively recent bombings in the city, Bangkok was as popular as it has always been.

The Grand Palace, Bangkok

The Grand Palace, Bangkok

Ornate Details of Wat Phra Kaew

Ornate Details of Wat Phra Kaew

Wat Phra Kaew

Yaksha Statues around the Golden Chedi, Wat Phra Kaew

MYANMAR

“I’m glad we went to Bangkok before Yangon.”

It was James’ spontaneous response when we arrived at Shwedagon Pagoda in Myanmar’s biggest city, Yangon. Resplendent in gold, Shwedagon is only one of many invaluable heritage sites across the country, a testament to the might and wealth of the kingdoms that once ruled in modern-day Myanmar.

From the jaw-dropping and awe-inspiring ancient temples in Bagan to crumbling and neglected shrines at Indein near Nyaung Shwe (gateway to Inle Lake), and the last Burmese palace in Mandalay, our two-week journey in the fast-changing country was full of surprises, inspiration, and contemplation. The fact that we were there less than one month before the country’s first true general elections since 1990 helped shape our mood.

The Magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda

The Magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda

Some of Yangon's Old Colonial Buildings

Old Colonial Buildings on Strand Road, Yangon

Group of Ruined Temples at Indein

Groups of Temple Ruins at Indein

A Fisherman at Inle Lake

A Fisherman at Inle Lake

Novice Buddhist Monks at Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery, Just Outside Nyaung Shwe

Novice Buddhist Monks at Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery, Just outside Nyaung Shwe

Htilominlo and Smaller Temples, Bagan

Htilominlo Temple and Smaller Shrines, Bagan

Intricate Carvings of Shwenandaw Monastery, Mandalay

Intricate Carvings at Shwenandaw Monastery, Mandalay

Mohinga, Considered Myanmar's National Dish

Mohinga, Myanmar’s National Dish

INDIA

India was an attack on our senses. It is a country where those who have been end up either loving or despising it. There’s no such thing as moderation, it’s always at both extremes. After staying overnight in Chennai we flew to Goa via Mumbai. Goa was one of our must-see destinations for this Spice Odyssey as it held an important role as a Portuguese trading post along the Spice Route.

From Goa we took a detour to Hampi in Karnataka before going back to the Malabar coast. Kochi was our starting point in Kerala before going to Kumarakom to explore the famous backwaters, and continued north to Anachal, not far from Munnar in the Keralan highlands, to see a spice garden.

We crossed the majestic mountains that border Kerala with Tamil Nadu and arrived in Madurai to stay within walking distance from Meenakshi Amman Temple, one of the biggest and most important Tamil temples. From Madurai we went eastward and stayed in Thanjavur (to see Brihadeeswarar Temple), Kumbakonam (to visit Airavatesvara Temple), Pondicherry (to explore its French colonial heritage), Mahabalipuram (an unplanned visit to the Shore Temple), and finally Chennai to meet one of our favorite bloggers, Madhu.

It was Madhu who suggested us to go to Goa first and save Tamil Nadu for the later weeks of our trip as it would coincide with the beginning of the Northeast Monsoon. Thanks to her, and our unbelievable luck with the weather, our trip in Tamil Nadu by and large went smoothly – despite some difficulties we encountered on our way to Pondicherry due to flooded roads – and we left Chennai just days before the NE Monsoon wrought havoc and caused the worst flooding in the state’s capital in a century.

Before flying to Kathmandu we stayed overnight in Kolkata and experienced firsthand the city’s notoriously overcrowded neighborhoods – although maybe that’s the case with many cities in northern India. That needs another month of traveling, if not more.

Se Cathedral, Old Goa

Se Cathedral in Old Goa, Built by the Portuguese

Idli (White) & Vadai (Brown), Typical South Indian Breakfast Dishes

Idli (White) & Vadai (Brown), Typical South Indian Breakfast Dishes

The Stone Chariot, Hampi

The Stone Chariot at the 16th-Century Vittala Temple, Hampi

The Elephant Stable, Hampi

The 15th-Century Elephant Stable, Hampi

Kathakali Performance, Kochi

Kathakali Performance, Kochi

Exploring the Backwaters of Kerala

Exploring the Backwaters of Kerala

Madurai's Meenakshi Amman Temple

Madurai’s Meenakshi Amman Temple

Vegetarian Thali Set, Madurai

Vegetarian Thali Set, Madurai

The 11th Century Brihadeeswarar Temple, Thanjavur

The 11th Century Brihadeeswarar Temple, Thanjavur

Pondicherry's Immaculate Conception Cathedral

Pondicherry’s Immaculate Conception Cathedral

The 8th Century Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram

The Eighth-Century Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram

Chennai Metro Construction in front of the Ripon Building

Chennai’s Ripon Building, Days before Severe Flooding Hit the City

Kolkata's Iconic Ambassador Taxi

Kolkata’s Iconic Ambassador Taxi

NEPAL

On April 25, 2015 a powerful earthquake shook Nepal, the worst to hit the country since 1934. It was then followed by strong aftershocks even long after the first devastating tremor. Images of destruction across the country were broadcast on international news channels. Not only were we saddened by the loss of lives and the damage to many historical sites, but we also discussed whether we should carry on with our plan to visit Nepal in December or not.

If our trip were just a few weeks or months after the disaster, we would probably have cancelled it altogether since we might only bring an extra burden to the rescue efforts. However it was eight months after April, and a friend of James’ who lives in Kathmandu assured him that we should still come to help rebuild the economy since the country is heavily dependent on tourism.

We couldn’t be happier to arrive in Nepal earlier this month despite the unofficial blockade of fuel, medicines, and other supplies imposed by India over recent political tensions between the two neighbors. Going from one place to another cost considerably more and hours of power outages occurred on a daily basis across the country.

We started our journey in Bhaktapur, one of the ancient sites in the Kathmandu Valley inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. Then we moved to the capital, Kathmandu, from where we did half-day trips to Patan (Lalitpur) and Kirtipur. We continued westwards to the country’s second largest city, Pokhara, before going back to Kathmandu to wrap up this six-month long Spice Odyssey.

Taumadhi Square, Bhaktapur

Taumadhi Square, Bhaktapur

Samay Baji Set, Bhaktapur

Samay Baji Set, Bhaktapur

Juju Dhau (Royal Curd), A Bhaktapur Speciality

Juju Dhau (Royal Curd), A Bhaktapur Specialty

Patan (Lalitpur) Durbar Square

Patan (Lalitpur) Durbar Square

Swayambhunath without the Prayer Flags

Swayambhunath without the Prayer Flags

Kathmandu's Durbar Square

Kathmandu Durbar Square

Local Women Talking about Fashion, I Guess

Talking about Fashion, Kirtipur

Local Men and Women with Offerings, Pokhara

Local Men and Women with Offerings, Pokhara

View of the Annapurna Range from Sarangkot

View of the Annapurna Range from Sarangkot

What did I get from this trip?

1. Stories and photos. Six months of traveling has guaranteed me lots of material for my future posts, although deciding how I’m going to write them is another challenge

2. Never-before-learned history lessons. Some places I visited on this trip have deep historical and cultural connections with places I’m familiar with in Indonesia. But people from both sides often forget about them or are completely unaware of them. Through this blog I intend to raise people’s awareness of those long-lost connections

3. Understanding, that a lot of bad things in the world happened because of misunderstanding. Traveling helps me understand others’ perspectives to get a bigger picture of why things happen, rather than relying only on what is reported in the media. I learned how we, ordinary people who love traveling, have the potential to become agents of change amid prejudice and stereotyping in the world

4. Acknowledgement, that as travelers we must also embrace our role as ambassadors. During this trip I got questions about Indonesia from those who knew very little about it. The questions ranged from how most people were unaware of the size of the country, like “I went to a small port in Indonesia, what’s the name?”, to “Does Indonesia use the euro?”, and someone even asked me “Are Muslims in Indonesia pious?”

5. New friends, which I believe most of you can relate to. Along the way I made friends with some really nice people, but it was inevitable that some strange people also crossed my path, including our guide in Kirtipur who ended up a little drunk and talked to us in German, French, Dutch, Italian, and Danish

On a side note

Now I am going to settle back in Indonesia and try to find a new job, because I don’t think I can travel full-time for years like some people do. It’s not for me. I was surprised to learn that at several points I actually missed dealing with challenges at work. This makes me believe that instead of focusing on work-life balance and finding where the balance is, it’s better to focus on living a life you won’t regret. Some people love working and being busy, some love having a lot of time to just relax. Some prefer to not do any works on weekends, some opt for doing a little bit of work before weekdays come. Whatever it is, make sure you won’t regret your choice by understanding the risks and consequences, including whether you decide to become a full-time traveler, embark on long-term travel every now and then, or just do short trips.

But if you ask me whether I want to do this kind of extended travel again in the future or not, I certainly would!

After six months of traveling across seven countries in Southeast and South Asia, here comes a busy year of blogging ahead. Thank you again for reading and leaving comments on my previous posts, and I will try to catch up with your blogs as soon as I’m home. Happy holidays and see you in 2016!

Posted by

Based in Jakarta, always curious about the world, always fascinated by ancient temples, easily pleased by food.

99 thoughts on “Out of the Archipelago”

  1. What an amazing world we live in and how lucky you are to have experienced these cultures. We spent part of our honeymoon in Penang. Beautiful photos.

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    • That’s true, Miriam. I planned this trip three years ago, and this shows that when there is a will, there is a way. Wow, honeymoon in Penang with all the delicious food. Sounds amazing! 🙂
      Thank you for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It was brilliant. We started in the Maldives and stopped at Penang on the way home – wonderful memories of very special places.

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    • Hey Mira! Thanks for the kind comment, and for your suggestions on Bagan. Now I have plenty of homework. 🙂

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  2. Nggak terasa sudah ikuti cuilan-cuilan cerita trip 6 bulanmu lewat medsoc. Meski dulu ngarepnya ada tulisan di blog saat dirimu singgah ke suatu tempat hehe. Tetap ngefans, dan tentunya menunggu tulisan yang detail dari pengalaman keren ini atau mungkin malah ada buku khusus yang bercerita runut? Kutunggu, Bama! 🙂

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    • Nah itu dia, aku agak susah mau nulis selama perjalanan, Halim. Aku pengennya perjalanan selesai, aku serap semua yang aku dapetin, aku cerna, baru aku olah ceritanya. Soalnya banyak koneksi di sana-sini dari satu tempat ke tempat yang lain. Takut loncat-loncat gitu. Makasih udah sabar menunggu ya. Dalam beberapa minggu ke depan aku harus bertapa mikirin gimana cara nulis semua cerita itu. 😀

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      • Hahaha, aduh pengen banget sih nulis buku. Tapi aku masih hijau, butuh difermentasi dulu biar jadi oolong atau hitam. 😀

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      • Hahahaha, Bart! 😀 Btw ngomong-ngomong soal teh, masala tea di Nepal menurutku jauh lebih enak dibanding di India, which agak aneh soalnya selama ini di bayanganku masala tea di India harusnya the best.

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      • Yup setuju banget Bam! Takaran masalanya pas, begitu juga dengan masakan mereka. Mungkin karena Nepal itu bersinggungan dengan daerah lainnya, jadi rasa masakan dan minumannya seperti India-yang-lebih-ramah-di-lidah.

        Tapi gak sempat nyobain chilli sauce mereka yang warna hijau khaaaan? Ancur banget. Aku gak kuat rasa campurannya.

        Plus di Nepal porsi makanannya juga juara yaaaa 😁

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      • Iya, overall lidahku lebih cocok sama masakan Nepal, khususnya dal bhat. Momo ala Nepal pun aku lebih suka dibandingin momo ala Tibet.

        Hahaha, aku belum coba sih sambel ijo yang kamu foto itu. Tapi so far selama aku di Nepal yang paling ajaib itu ya rasa sambel Tibet.

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      • Ah iya Dal Bhat nya ngangenin. Aku malah belum bedain momo ala Nepal dan momo ala Tibet. Tapi mungkin memang yg di Nepal itu semuanya diramu dan dimodifikasi hingga cocok buat siapapun. Eh Bam, steak nya di Pokhara harus dicobain deh, siapa tau ada yang pakai daging Yak.

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      • Aku cobain dua jenis momo ala Tibet, mereka lebih berat ke daging, bukan ke bumbu, dan ukurannya lebih besar dari momo ala Nepal. Rasanya pun terlalu asin di lidahku.
        Waaah, steak daging yak??? Pengen nyobain. Kamu nyobain kah waktu di Pokhara?

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      • Katanya sih ada, tapi aku gak nemu. Aku nyobain steak biasa aja. Pas di sana bebarengan dengan Christmast Eve, banyak diskon dimana-mana, termasuk steak.

        Coba googling dulu Bam, steak paling enak dimana di Pokhara. Potongan daging nya lumayan besar.

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      • Okeee, tak cari di Google. Btw ada satu tempat steak yang banyak direkomendasiin di Pokhara. Pas aku ke sana ternyata tutup dan ada papan pengumuman bilang mereka baru akan buka lagi kalau krisis bahan bakar udah berakhir. 😦

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      • Iya. Mudah-mudahan cepet berakhir sih. Kemarin aja pas ke Sarangkot ada antrian panjang mobil deket SPBU. Biaya transportasi jadi 70-100% lebih mahal.

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    • Merci! I took that photo of the temples in Bagan from the middle of a corn field. It’s a bit hard to find, but when you find it the view is very rewarding.

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      • Oops, somehow I read it Bagan, not Indein. 🙂 As for that photo from Indein, it was not particularly a sunny day. When the sun came I quickly took a lot of shots, and probably half an hour later it was behind the clouds again.

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  3. What an amazing experience……
    Kereeen pokoknya, bisa ke berbagai negara seperti itu. Dari semuanya saya suka sama foto foto yang dari Sri Lanka… , sri Lanka keren juga ya..

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    • Karena tripnya panjang dan mengunjungi berbagai negara lah persiapannya pun mulai saya lakukan jauh-jauh hari sebelumnya. Pas masa-masa nabung dan pengetatan ikat pinggang setiap kali merasa pengen makan agak enak (yang artinya butuh uang lebih) saya selalu mengingatkan diri sendiri mengenai trip ini. Agak-agak gak percaya juga saya bahwa enam bulan sudah berlalu. Pengen nabung lagi untuk extended trip yang lain rasanya. 🙂
      Btw setelah traveling di India biasanya orang-orang ‘melarikan diri’ ke Nepal, Sri Lanka, atau Maladewa karena negara-negara tersebut lebih rileks, santai, dan gak terlalu penuh dengan orang kayak di India. Mengenai Sri Lanka sendiri, untuk ukuran negara ‘sekecil’ itu, Sri Lanka punya banyak sekali situs bersejarah yang masuk ke daftar UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

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      • Ternyata Kak Bama juga nabung ketat ya buat ngetrip ini…. saya juga lagi nabung ketat kak buat nyiapin trip taon depan, sampai irit kalau soal makan makan, hampir sama lah kasusnya,
        Btw extended tripnya rencananya kemana lagi nih?

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      • Saya nabungnya mulai tiga tahun yang lalu. Tapi bener-bener ketatnya mulai dua tahun yang lalu. Pas awal-awal trip ini sempet agak deg-degan sih soalnya nilai rupiah pas awal nabung udah beda jauh dengan nilai rupiah pas bulan Juli kemarin. Tapi setelah disiasati di sana-sini akhirnya uang tabungannya cukup kok. Cuma next time kalau saya mau nabung lagi saya akan set target 120% atau 130% dari kebutuhan. 20-30% itu untuk jaga-jaga kalau-kalau nilai rupiah turun.

        Next tripnya belum ada rencana pasti. Tapi di kepala sih udah banyak alternatif, hehehe.

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      • Luarrr biasa… nabungnya sampai 3 tahuunn …. Pantes ya, ngetripnya juga kelihatanya matang banget dan bisa sampai banyak negara gitu dalam satu rangkaian perjalanan. Patut dicontoh nih.. 😄😄

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      • Ya kalo kata orang tua, di mana ada kemauan, di situ ada jalan. Jalannya harus kita persiapkan sendiri, salah satunya ya nabung. 😀

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  4. Wow, it’s an incredible journey! I lost my words on how I will praise what you two have done. Couldn’t agree more with the connections between Indonesia and those countries on the spice trail–we sure have deep and long relationship!
    I will wait patiently for your (detailed) stories. They will be very interesting, most outstanding writings that I’ll ever read. Aaaak! *over excitement detected*.

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    • It really was, Gara! I myself am very excited for the stories I got from this trip. They’re like bricks, mortars and sand — I have to think of a way to make them a house. One that is logical. Thank you for being patient, Gara. 2016 will surely be a busy year for me and my blog! 🙂 Oh by the way, you would love southern India for that is where the influence of our Hindu temple architecture came from.

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  5. Oh, you guys are done?! This was a great summary post, and I can’t wait for some more of the details. Your photos were amazing. I found your last comments interesting; I have just recently come to the conclusion that I might not want to travel full-time either. I think the work days and the home routine actually make the travel time more special; if I were on the road full-time, I might start to find it mundane or even tiresome. How lucky for you that you could leave for 6 months and go back to whatever you were doing.

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    • Hi Lex! In less than a week we will be flying to Hong Kong, and in early January I will be flying back to Indonesia. It feels surreal that this trip is about to end — I still remember everything from July 1 when we started to hit the road. You are definitely right about how our work and home routine actually make our travel time special. Maybe this is just us, maybe some people always feel that excitement in spite of traveling nonstop for years. Six months for James and I just feels right. We want to feel that longing for seeing all those incredible places again in the future — that might come soon enough, I suppose. 🙂

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  6. Finally Bam, setelah enam bulan. Gak kerasa ya? Seperti baru kemarin rasanya kami bergabung di sepuluh hari pertama perjalanan kalian, dan sekarang sudah hampir beres enam bulan.

    Gak sabar rasanya untuk membaca cerita-ceritamu selanjutnya tentang detail perjalanan ini, yang aku yakin bakal bikin aku ,,, hmmm antara iri dan senang.

    Aku agak surprise dengan opini perasaanmu di akhir tulisan, dimana pada akhirnya dirimu kangen juga dengan tantangan-tantangan pada pekerjaan. Dan bukannya memilih untuk selanjutnya hidup di jalan. Sekaligus aku setuju dan mengamini, bahwa apapun pilihan yang kita ambil sebaiknya kita pertimbangkan resiko dan konsekuensinya, serta apapun itu adalah lebih baik memilih menjalani hidup yang tidak akan kita sesali daripada berkutat dengan mencari keseimbangan antara hidup dan kerja.

    Selamat kawan, salah satu mimpi besarmu telah tercapai.

    Selalu aku tunggu postinganmu selanjutnya, dan jangan lupa kita harus reunian yaaa 😉

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    • Bener-bener gak kerasa, Bart. Kayak baru kemaren kita ngumpul di bandara Soekarno-Hatta terus meluncur menuju Cirebon. Enam bulan di jalan merasakan apa yang banyak traveler lain yang sudah berkelana bertahun-tahun rasakan. Mulai dari beberapa kali sakit, sempet terjadi kecelakaan motor kecil, terombang-ambing ombak besar di dalam kapal kecil, ditipu orang, nginep di gubuk, nginep di hotel bintang lima gratis tanpa diduga-duga, nginep gratis di rumah orang tapi rasanya pengen kabur dari rumah itu, konflik dengan teman seperjalanan, sampe kena kutu busuk di sekujur tangan. Itu semua cuma ketidaknyamanan ‘kecil’ dibandingkan dengan apa yang aku dapetin dari trip kali ini. Bener-bener bersyukur.

      Kamu seneng aja ya Bart, jangan iri. Lain waktu kita ngetrip bareng lagi, dan kalo mau naik gunung jangan dibungkus sarung doang ya (ini bakal aku bahas terus deh kayaknya :D).

      Dulu sekitar tahun 2011-2012 aku sempet berpikir untuk jadi full-time traveler. Lalu seiring berjalannya waktu aku mulai ragu apakah full-time traveling adalah sesuatu yang aku inginkan dalam hidup. Setelah 6 bulan traveling semakin mantap sih bahwa aku tipe yang lebih suka traveling sesekali, kadang singkat kadang panjang.

      Makasih udah mau ikut ngeramein bagian awal trip ini, Bart. Reunian sih emang udah ada di agendaku. 😀

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  7. Wow! Bama what an amazing journey you and James have had. The photos you shared are outstanding. However it was your summary of what you learned about life and balance that stayed with me the most. We hope to one day do more extended travel and I believe it will give a very different feel than the hurried couple of weeks here and there. I look forward ot reading yur posts as they become available.

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    • Thank you, Sue. This has been a very unforgettable journey, indeed. We would love to do something like this again in the future, in different parts of the world. It’s true what people said that traveling not only makes us learn about places we visited, but also learn more about ourselves. In my early years of blogging I always wanted to travel to as many countries in the shortest time as possible. But after two of such rushed trips I realized that I didn’t really enjoy them as I missed so many things.

      Hopefully I’ll come up with a series of stories that is logical and easy to follow. 🙂

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  8. This is probably the best post you have done! I love the dancing pillars. I love the color and the architecture. And the food photos are a great added bonus. This post obviously gives us a quick look in to the absolutely amazing things you saw on your trip. Just out of this world! I’m blown away.

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    • Thank you so much! Those dancing pillars, even though they’re not the biggest structures in the ancient city of Polonnaruwa, but they’re definitely my favorite! The fact that they’re so old is just mind-boggling. This trip makes me wish I could do stone or wood sculpting. 🙂 I did experience a few unfortunate things on this trip, but the rest was just amazing. I can’t wait to share with you and other readers the stories I learned from the places I visited and the people I met.

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  9. Wow, what a trip. Do you know there’s a Thai restaurant here that serves a string of peppers (like your first photo) with their dishes? I wasn’t sure what it was until I took a bite!

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    • I would do it again in a heartbeat one day! A string of peppercorns in a dish? That sounds really interesting! I don’t think I’ve ever seen any Thai, Indian, or other Asian dishes where peppercorns are used in such way. I’m intrigued to try, though.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. How lucky you are! Btw, this month i will going to Malaysia and Thailand. But, just one week coz my school haven’t long holiday this year. It just christmas dan new year holiday. Haha. See you soon on the next trip!

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    • Hi Ruri. You can also do this kind of trip. When there is a will, there is a way. Most of the time it’s us who should create that way, sometimes it just comes to us when we least expect it. Have a great time in Malaysia and Thailand! and thank you for dropping by.

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    • Hi Alison. The spirituality of Nepal actually reminds me of you and Don. I reckon that you’ve never been to the country, am I right? Nepal is a very photogenic land, where people in colorful traditional outfit live their daily lives amid ancient temples and atmospheric alleys. Those women for instance. Thank you, Alison. I need to catch up with your latest blog posts soon!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Amazing!!!! Wow. Your words and your incredible photos are stunning Bama and I can hardly wait to begin reading all your posts on your journey. Looks like a trip of a lifetime!!! I have never done six full months traveling but just a lot and lot of 1-3 week trips over the past 25 years. I don’t know if I could be away that long either (well now I have kids so obviously not) but I’m sure your learned a tremendous amount. I love what you wrote about being an Ambassador. It is so true how important it is. Excellent post and I can hardly wait to dive into all your stories. It wills probably take you a year to write them all!

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    • Hi Nicole. It was indeed a trip of a lifetime! The longest trip I did before this one was only one month in Europe, but I had my cousin arrange pretty much everything. So to travel six month nonstop with only James and I ourselves to prepare everything, it seemed like a daunting task at first. Anyway, when the kids grow up you may want to try traveling for an extended period of time. 🙂

      Thank you for your kind thoughts, Nicole. And based on my rough calculation, I probably need the whole year, if not more, to write about all the stories from this trip!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Rifqy Faiza Rahman says:

    Entah kata apalagi untuk menggambarkan ini. Luar biasa? Incredible? Amazing? Awesome? Yang jelas, disiplin diri dalam berbulan-bulan demi sebuah perjalanan panjang sesuai yang dicita-citakan itu, sangat membantu. Secara tidak langsung, disiplin dalam persiapan akan membantu disiplin dalam perjalanan. Menjadi bijak, mampu mengingatkan diri sendiri. Pada akhirnya saya ingin berkata: Salut! 🙂

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    • Disiplin memang jadi kuncinya. Selama masa nabung itu banyak banget godaan, baik karena males maupun ya memang menggoda aja (buat saya biasanya sih makanan, hehe). Sesekali saya ‘menyerah’ sama godaan, misalnya satu atau dua hari gak bawa bekal ke kantor dan lebih memilih untuk beli makan. Tapi saya gak membiarkan itu terjadi terlalu sering, dan kalaupun terjadi biasanya saya bikin semacam mekanisme ‘punishment’ buat diri sendiri. Misalnya kalau dalam satu minggu itu saya sekali atau dua kali jajan di kantor, maka pas weekend saya irit-irit banget, bisa dengan cara makan ala vegetarian (yang selain murah juga sehat).

      Tapi ya intinya kontrol diri penting banget untuk nabung selama itu. Terlalu longgar maka target tabungan bisa gak tercapai, terlalu ketat juga gak baik, bisa-bisa sakit. Di awal perlu ditentukan serealistis apa target nominal tabungan yang mau kita capai. Sebetulnya tiga tahun yang lalu target saya mau mengunjungi lebih dari 7 negara tersebut, tapi setelah satu tahun berlalu saya hitung-hitung lagi dan ternyata saya harus revisi itinerary-nya supaya masuk di hitungan saya. Gitu deh, Qy. 🙂 Makasih ya.

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  13. kak Bama, ini keren banget! saya selalu berharap bisa berani untuk melakukan perjalanan panjang seperti ini, dan mempelajari tentang diri sendiri (tapi ada pertanyaan juga, apakah selama ini tidak cukup belajar tentang diri?) rasanya pasti beda antara perjalanan pendek dan perjalanan panjang sekali, karena setiap perantau pasti ingin pulang kan? kadang-kadang masalah terbesarku itu, kangen pulang, walaupun rumah adalah di mana pun.

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    • Ah Kak Indri bisa aja. Kak Indri juga bisa melakukan perjalanan panjang kayak gini. Yang penting harus siap mental, mau itu traveling sendiri atau sama teman. Masing-masing ada plus minusnya. Soal mempelajari tentang diri sendiri sih saya percaya itu all the time kak, sampai kita tua pun harusnya. Saya sebenernya jarang merasa kangen rumah sih, sesekali aja biasanya kalau bosan sama makanan yang dimakan tiap hari ketika traveling baru deh kangen masakan rumah. 🙂 Mungkin juga karena udah lebih dari 13 tahun saya terbiasa hidup sendiri dan berpindah-pindah. Btw makasih ya Kak, dan jangan takut untuk merencanakan perjalanan panjang.

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  14. Fotonya bagus-bagus, dan saya suka bagian tulisan di dua sub judul terakhir. Mak nyes gitu. Btw, ada alasan tertentu ambil urutan Malaysia ke Sri Lanka dulu daripada Malaysia ke Myanmar?
    Dinanti cerita versi panjangnya, Kak!

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    • Terima kasih banyak. Mak nyes? kayak kena setrikaan dong. 🙂 Alasan pergi ke Sri Lanka dulu baru ke Myanmar karena menyesuaikan dengan cuaca sih. Karena saya suka foto-foto jadi sebisa mungkin saya usahakan untuk ke suatu tempat bukan pas musim hujan, meskipun untuk India itu pas banget musim hujan di India bagian selatan.
      Siaaap, nantikan cerita lengkapnya ya! 🙂

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      • Oh iya, bener, pas saya ke Myanmar awal Oktober lalu masih kena buntut musim hujan.
        Dicatat nih sekarang tips dari Kakak, lebih perhatian soal musim biar dapet gambar kece!

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      • Saya ke Myanmar di akhir bulan Oktober, dan itu pun masih kena dikit-dikit efek musim hujan di sana. Selama saya di Mandalay langit mendung terus, bahkan di hari ketika saya memutuskan untuk mengeksplorasi Mandalay eh malah hujan deras.

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  15. These are pretty impressive travels, Bama, AND you got to meet Madhu! How amazing is that? There’s a lot to absorb in this post! I reckon you’ve earned a rest 🙂

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    • I would do it again in a heartbeat, Jo. Meeting Madhu was one of the highlights of our trip in India. Not only is she one of our favorite bloggers, but it was really nice having discussions with her, just like how I imagined. We talked about so many things for hours and hours and hours, from travel to politics. 🙂 I will be flying to Hong Kong in a few days’ time to spend Christmas and New Year before going back to the heat and humidity of Indonesia, which I kind of miss! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  16. First of all, you have some great images from your trip. I am sure you have many memory cards full of great photos that we will be seeing. I look forward to your future posts.

    Reading through these, I found myself really wanting to go to Sri Lanka, then Myanmar, and then Nepal… You got to visit some great places and you had some interesting timing. Being in Myanmar before the elections and Nepal after the quake must have been interesting.

    I agree with you about the long term travel thing. Kristi and I have found that about 2 months is just right for us. We are on day 69 of 70 of this trip, and the first 64 were great, but now we are tired and ready to be done! There are some people who go off for a year and I wonder how they do it.

    Good luck on your transition back to work life and again, I look forward to seeing your future posts.

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    • Thanks Jeff. From the beginning I knew I would take thousands of photos from this trip, so I decided to bring my external harddrive as well. 🙂 In Bagan alone I took more than 3,000 photos!

      The next time you come to Asia you really should consider visiting those countries, especially Myanmar. It changes unbelievably fast. So many things have changed in Yangon alone compared to my first trip there in 2012. It was interesting to see how Aung San Suu Kyi’s photos were seen everywhere — an unimaginable thing four years ago — and how some local English magazines openly criticized the government. As for Nepal hopefully when you come there won’t be any fuel crisis. Because of that prices are 70-100% higher than they used to be.

      You only have one more day, Jeff. Stay strong! 😀 Looking forward to more posts on Mexico!

      PS: Because of you now Mexico is on the very top of my wishlist of countries I want to visit the most in the western hemisphere. 🙂

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  17. aaah, welcome back, Mas Bama.
    congrats for the wonderful six months trip, can’t wait for another story, and wow, you’re photos are wonderful and bercerita banget! :)))

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    • Makasih Yuki. I will go to Hong Kong soon to sit back, relax, and eat a lot before going home and do my ‘homework’! 🙂
      Thanks for your kind words too!

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  18. benar benar perjalanan keren nih mas bama..nyimak terus ah.. 🙂
    btw nasi kandar memang bener bener mirip seperti nasi kuning..kalao sekilas..

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    • Perjalanan impian mas, direncanakannya pun dari jauh-jauh hari. 🙂 Nasi kandar sekilas penampilannya memang mirip nasi kuning, tapi rasanya khas banget rempah-rempah Indianya.

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  19. Wow, Bama … Can’t believe that it’s already your final month of your journey. I think I still remember looking at the photos of you, James, Bart, and Gio, when doing the overland trip over Java!

    I bet you have loads of photo and stories to tell, and can’t imagine how you shape the stories of this long journey haha!

    As always, great photos from you!

    I think, based on your photos, I would love to visit Myanmar on my next trip!

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    • This morning I arrived in Hong Kong, and unlike my previous trips to the city, this time I feel depressed since it means that the Spice Odyssey is officially over. However the food here managed to lighten up my mood, as always. 🙂 Yes, I do have lots of photos and stories. But now it’s time to relax, and eat!

      Myanmar has become increasingly popular among foreign tourists nowadays. A few days ago I read that this year alone there are about 4 million foreigners who visited. So, you should go!

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      • Hahaha … food is always a cure for many things 😀 Yes, I think it’s time for you to relax first after a 6 months journey!

        I will try to visit Myanmar next year, woohoo!

        Have fun in HK, Bamssss!!

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  20. Hello Bama,

    I love the pictures you took during this trip. I particularly like the great pictures you took about the food. The Juju Dhau (Royal Curd) looks really good.

    I give you credit for traveling and exploring other places not related to the Spice Route which gave you an understanding and knowledge of the countries BEFORE the arrival of Europeans. This is the history that I would also love to hear about!

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    • Thank you, Liz. Juju Dhau is thicker and creamier than yogurt. You should try when you’re in Bhaktapur.

      As for the stories, I plan to write them chronologically so people can have a better understanding of what happened in Asia before and after the Age of Discovery. Many things we take for granted today are the results of past — and often forgotten — events.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Viktoria. Please do visit Indonesia for beautiful beaches, ancient Hindu and Buddhist temples, delicious food, towering mountains and volcanoes, and many more. 🙂

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  21. Oh how I envy you (positively) of your travels across South/Southeast Asia in your and James’ quest to retrace the ancient Spice Route. Each of these photos brought a smile to my face, and one place really caught my attention for the very reason you mention: Sri Lanka. I put cinnamon in everything…and it was great to see you cover this so well.

    The experiences and wisdom you collected on these travels will always be with you and then you write about something that made me think the lives of people you ran into and touched will always have those memories as well ~ “travelers we must also embrace our role as ambassadors” Perfect. Wish you well in 2016.

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    • We envy each other’s travels, in a very positive way, as they give us lessons on life, better understanding of history, connections with people from different races and religions, and many more. In other words, we envy each other’s lessons.

      A lot of countries produce cinnamon, but Cinnamomum verum from Sri Lanka is considered the best. I bought the oil, but I have no idea what I’m going to use it for. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Randall, and wish you well in 2016 too.

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  22. I really love your photos, especially how you include food amongst the architecture! I have been to many of the places you travelled to which made it great to see your version and photos of the same countries. Thanks!

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    • Thank you for your kind comment, Peta. It was such a great trip, indeed, and I’m glad you went to those places before I did. 🙂

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  23. Pingback: The Spice Odyssey, A Prologue | What an Amazing World!

  24. What a long journey, from Malaysia to Nepal and around the fabled spice islands of eastern Indonesia in search of the nutmeg origins. Not to mention your pictures are very awesome. Looking forward to see more of your travels in the future especially this new year of 2016.

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    • It was a long and memorable journey, indeed. I would do it again in a heartbeat! 🙂 Along the journey I met people who were surprised to learn about where nutmeg and clove come from. Both ingredients are widely used in many dishes from Southeast and South Asia to the extent that some people even thought that both nutmeg and clove were originally from their countries.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. Pingback: Pondicherry: Vestiges of French India | What an Amazing World!

    • That’s probably the most famous mural in Penang, for a very obvious reason. Thanks for dropping by, Nancy!

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