The Hong Kong and Paris Trips that Never Happened

66 comments
Asia, Indonesia, Southeast

Visiting Hong Kong was one of his travel wishes

“If I get the chance to go abroad again, there are only two places that I want to see: Hong Kong and Paris.”

He told me this back in April 2019 to my surprise, not only because he had never been too interested in traveling, but also because he chose those two cities.

Born to a family of modest means in Pati, a small town in Central Java, he only left his hometown when he went to a university in Semarang, a big city some three hours’ drive to the west where he would meet his future wife. After getting a law degree, he landed a job at the state attorney office which would then bring him to places as far as South Kalimantan on the island of Borneo where he was put on duty for a few years.

His travels were always confined to the localities of the towns and cities where he was stationed – nearby beaches, tranquil villages, etc – as well as regular visits to some relatives who live in cities across Java. When he was in Borneo, he was nominated to take part in a training program in Japan due to his good performance at work. However, in the end he had to let that rare opportunity slip away since some proficiency in English was apparently required, and he could barely speak the language. It wasn’t until 2013 when he finally used his passport for the very first time to go on a minor pilgrimage (umrah) to Mecca with his wife.

When his stint in Borneo ended, he was then transferred to a very small city called Pandeglang in Java’s westernmost regency, followed by a seven-year assignment in Tasikmalaya in the heartland of West Java, then to the hot and humid coastal city of Tegal in Central Java. When he was nearing his retirement age, he was relocated to Semarang to his wife’s delight, as that was where she was born and raised. This allowed her to reconnect with her long-lost friends from school and university. While for him, his slower days at work enabled him to join a few cycling clubs in the city to channel his passion for the sport. Soon enough, what started as easy morning rides within the city became intense intercity journeys. Together with the people in his cycling clubs, he went from Semarang to Yogyakarta (around 110 km), Semarang to Surabaya (around 350 km), and Jakarta to Semarang (around 440 km), to name some. And just like that, suddenly he traveled a lot on his two wheels.

In early 2016, after I completed my six-month journey across Southeast and South Asia, I offered to take him and his wife abroad and gave them three options: Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok. They chose the first, a tiny island-nation that offers a different ambiance from the chaos and noise that are otherwise typical of most Southeast Asian metropolises. As expected, he was really impressed with the orderliness, the efficient public transport, the gleaming waterfront skyline, and an artificial indoor forest, among other draws. He was so happy he couldn’t wait to tell his cycling friends of the things he saw in Singapore – a trip where he used his passport only for the second time.

He was my father, and he passed away in late February this year after suffering from a complication of illnesses for months. One of the things that came to my mind upon his death was his travel wish; I was actually thinking of taking him and my mother to Hong Kong – a logical deliberation since it’s closer to Semarang compared to Paris, and Indonesians have visa-free access (as opposed to the lengthy and complicated procedure to obtain a Schengen visa) – at the end of 2020. But then Covid-19 happened.

My mother told me how close I was to my father when I was little, and the old photos I have clearly show this. When we were still living in Borneo, every time my father came back from work I liked to ask him to pretend to be a goat so that I could hop on his back. When we were in Pandeglang, he taught me how to ride a bicycle, and in Tasikmalaya he taught me how to drive a car. When I was in primary school, he always gave me math and science lessons at night. He also saved me from a private religion tutor who told me that the Earth was flat. However, our relationship began to turn sour when I was in high school. I can recall a lot of tense conversations and heated arguments between us, and our differences seemed to grow even wider when I was in university. It was only after I got my first job when things started to calm down and our connection began warming up again, although it was never really restored to the same level as when I was a kid.

Things began to go downhill in 2019 when I suddenly received a phone call from my mother telling me that my father had just been hit by a car while cycling. He had to use a walking stick after that, but a few months later he was already back on his two wheels. Then in September 2020, when he was riding a motorbike taxi on his way home, the rather careless driver ran over a pothole. The sudden shock hurt my father and since then he had to use a walking stick again. In late December, he fell in front of the TV when he wanted to sit, and because of that he had to use a wheelchair. Then in early February 2021, my mother told me over WhatsApp that he fell from bed when she was in the bathroom. This marked the moment when he began deteriorating really fast. In the beginning of the third week of February, I decided to drive all the way from Jakarta to Semarang to briefly visit him. Compared to early January when I saw him the last time, he already looked a lot different: he was bedridden and everything he said didn’t make any sense as he was in a state of delirium.

Four days after I returned to Jakarta, he was finally taken to the hospital (he had always rejected my mother’s suggestion to see a doctor which we assume was mainly caused by his trypanophobia), and the following day after he was admitted I went back to Semarang to check on his condition. I spent two nights in the city before traveling back to Jakarta. But two days later I got a frantic phone call from my mother in the afternoon saying that he was in critical condition, so the next morning I hit the road again, bound for Semarang. I arrived at noon, and this time my father could no longer respond to anything and he was struggling to breathe. That night the resident neurologist informed me and my mother that my father’s responses were becoming weaker and weaker. Then, the next morning at 7:49 my father was declared dead, and my mother instantly burst into tears. Two weeks earlier when I saw him lying on the bed at home, I kind of knew that he wouldn’t be able to last for too long. But when I saw his lifeless body with no heartbeat lying right in front of me, I couldn’t hold it in. I cried uncontrollably for a brief moment while holding onto the railing of his bed, realizing that this was it, the end of his life. We had our differences, but in the end he was my father, and I loved him despite everything.

The rest of the day was very hectic. My mother and I are very lucky that our relatives in town, her close friends and the neighbors all helped us tremendously in settling all administration matters at the hospital, arranging a traditional funeral ritual at home, preparing his grave at a cemetery not too far from the house, and all the other things both my mother and I were clueless about.

Now my father can rest in peace, no longer suffering from his illnesses – his kidney failure was the one that wreaked havoc on his body and triggered other complications. What remain are memories of him, cherished by those whose hearts and minds were touched by him throughout his life. And to honor his unfulfilled travel wish, I hope that one day I’ll be able to take my mother to Hong Kong and even Paris if possible. But for the time being, we will try to carry on with our lives and adapt to the new reality. You’ll be greatly missed, pa!

My father and I in South Kalimantan

Us at Carita Beach, a few hours’ drive from Pandeglang

We were very close when I was little

Him cycling in Kudus, Central Java (left) and the two of us in Singapore (right), both in 2016

The last time we celebrated Eid together in 2019

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

66 thoughts on “The Hong Kong and Paris Trips that Never Happened”

  1. I had tears in my eyes when I read your beautiful tribute to your father. I wish you to be able to visit Hong Kong and Paris one day, it will take on another dimension for you in addition to what these two cities have to offer.

    Liked by 1 person

    • When the pandemic is over, I will start planning that Hong Kong trip with my mother. At this moment, the thought of not having my father to see what we’ll see still feels rather surreal to be honest. Thanks for reading, Lookoom.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m so sorry for your loss. This was a very nice tribute to your father. I love the photos of the two of you. Do take care and give yourself time to grieve. Take care.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Matt. For a long time I thought I’d lost the photos from my childhood until last year when my mother found them. Looking at those images of me with my father makes me both happy and sad at the same time — it’s a feeling I can’t really describe.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ira says:

    Mataku berkaca-kaca baca ceritanya Mas Bama.
    Turut berduka cita Mas, semoga amal ibadah almarhum papa Mas Bama diterima Allah SWT, aamiin.
    Semoga bisa segera mengunjungi Hong Kong dan Paris bersama mamanya ya Mas.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Terima kasih ya atas doanya ya, Mbak Ira. Semoga sehat selalu dan semoga kita semua bisa melalui pandemi ini dengan aman dan selamat.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ira says:

        semoga Mas Bama sekeluarga pun selalu sehat dan semua bisa melalui pandemi ini dengan aman dan selamat, aamiin

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Bama, my deepest condolences to you and your dear mother – I wish you both strength and comfort to navigate through this very difficult time. It is a real encouragement to read that so many friends and neighbors stepped up to lend their support when your father passed last week. The old photos speak volumes about the close relationship you enjoyed with your dad as a kid, and fulfilling his dreams of overseas travel strikes me as such a great way to remember him. It would be an honor to introduce your mom to my hometown on a future trip – I’m very much looking forward to doing that after the pandemic passes.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, James. It was really heartwarming to see the overflowing support from my mother and father’s friends when he passed away. Quite a few of them told us about their positive impressions of him — how he helped people who were not good at cycling to conquer difficult terrain, how a former coworker said that my dad was like his own older brother that he looked up to, and how he always smiled at people. I can’t wait for the day when I take my mom to Hong Kong with you — you just have to walk even more slowly.

      Liked by 1 person

    • That’s very kind of you, Cornelia. Earlier today when I went to the supermarket, a few things reminded me of my father’s last days at the hospital. The same thing goes for my mom. A few days ago a friend who visited her brought steamed bananas which instantly brought back memories of my father because it was one of his favorite snacks. Both of us are still adjusting to the new reality.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Bama, I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing this lovely tribute to your father. It is nice to learn more about him. I remember your comments on my European bike trip posts about your dad’s love of cycling but I had no idea he was such an accomplished cyclist. I hope that once the pandemic is over and when you and your mother are ready, you will take that trip to Hong Kong in your dad’s memory. Your post is sad but the photos make me smile—such cute pictures of you and your dad when you were little, and the family photos from Eid 2019 are beautiful. Sending hugs from Vancouver.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Caroline. When I was reading your bike adventure across Europe, I actually thought of him and wondered if one day I could take him to do something similar. I never mentioned about this to him, but I know he would have been very excited. I hope you and your loved ones are doing well in Vancouver.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. My sympathies to you and your family on your loss Bama. What a beautiful tribute to your dad. Once all this COVID stuff is over I hope you and your mother have a special trip together xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Anna. We certainly hope so, but while waiting for the pandemic to end, I’ll be visiting her more often now.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. What a beautiful tribute to your father. I had tears in my eyes reading it, I can feel your love and respect for him. I hope you get to take your mom to Hong Kong one day. Maggie

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Maggie. My father was a kind of person who didn’t know how to express his love — it was only about a week before he passed away when he said he loved my mother. I hope one day I can make that trip to Hong Kong with her happen.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Mallee. I’m really glad that I managed to see him again before he passed away, and to be there when my mother needed me the most.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh, Bama, I read the early paragraphs with trepidation, knowing in my heart what must be coming. Still, it shocked me because I remembered reading about both of your parents’ high energy and zest for life. I am so sorry that you have lost your father. I know from others that sometimes it is even harder to lose someone with whom we have had difficult times, but I’m sure your father felt what you knew at the end, that you loved him. It’s wonderful to have the photos depicting closer times, both when you were (an adorable!) little boy and more recently during Eid in 2019. I look forward to reading the future posts about your travels with your mother, and I’m happy you have such a good friend in James to support you at this time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was very happy to know that years prior to his retirement, my father became really active in cycling, and my mother often joined him as well — although she was never interested in taking part in the intercity biking trips. I remember how proud I was when I told my friends and colleagues at work about my father’s adventures, which at his age were quite remarkable. I hope he knew that I did care about him, even though we didn’t talk that much — our last normal conversation happened in late December when he told me about how strong and determined his sister and his mother were. My mother and I are very grateful that our relatives and friends are very supportive during this difficult time. Thank you for your kind words, Lex.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh Bama I’m so very sorry for your loss. There is nothing that can prepare us for the loss of a parent, and I know I too cried uncontrollably at both the death of my mother and the death of my father – more than once for each of them.
    Despite your differences your father seems like a really good person, and I must say, on a completely shallow note, that you are a very good looking family.
    I hope you continue to have the support you need as you process this loss. Your differences don’t matter, only the love matters.
    Alison

    Liked by 1 person

    • Today, even the smallest things can remind me and my mother of him — his favorite snacks, the things I bought for him when he was already hospitalized, etc. And when that happens, there’s this feeling in my chest that I can’t quite explain. Despite his flaws, he was a good person, and he taught me a lot about how to become one. One of the things he said that I still remember is when he taught me that good intention only is not enough, how you implement/deliver it is also very important. Thanks Alison.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. He looks so dashing in these pictures. Sorry to hear that he passed away this year and that his wish to travel to Paris and Hk could not be completed. Such is life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • He would have been very happy to read your kind words about him. It’s true that sometimes in life things don’t turn out the way we want them.

      Like

  11. Oh no! I am so very sorry for your loss Bama. I had no idea your father had met with an accident. Losing a parent is so, so hard. I was so much older and yet the grieving never seemed to stop. Despite your differences your love shines through in this beautiful tribute. Heartfelt condolences to your mother. Take care Bama. Much love❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Madhu. I know friends and relatives who have lost one or both of their parents, but I never knew how it felt until I lost mine. Last week I still cried whenever I remembered him, but this week I’m in a phase where I am constantly reminded that he’s no longer with us. It still feels unreal. I hope you and your loved ones are doing well.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s hard, the duration is beyond your control but it is important to grieve Bama. I remember the exact moment I let my grief and guilt go. We were attending a yoga event where the instructor had a pyre going and he suggested we write about whatever demons we were battling on a slip of paper and drop it into the fire. That physical act, nearly two years after my mother’s passing, made me feel immensely lighter. You have to give it time. Sending hugs🤗

        Liked by 1 person

      • I know I should. I’ll just let everything happen naturally. Thanks again for your warm words, Madhu!

        Liked by 1 person

  12. I’m so sorry for your loss Bama. I know too well how you must be feeling, as my father passed away a mere 18 months ago.

    Losing a parent is always of great sorry, no matter the age or circumstance.

    Even though you never got to travel too far with your father, you can carry the memories with you knowing that you still have your mum to comfort you, and this fitting tribute to look back on.

    Take Care & keep your loved ones close.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so sorry for your loss, Victoria. Now I know how it feels to lose a parent. It’s really hard. Although I never really traveled too far with my father, it was actually him who introduced me to the world. I remember he bought me small flags of nations of the world when I was little, and we always watched the 9pm world news together when I was growing up. Thanks for your kind words, and stay healthy.

      Like

  13. Bama what a beautiful story… Many trips were canceled and many plans were altered but of course not all with the sadness of the loss you suffered. It sounds like your father lived a rich life and was very loved which is evidenced by this story! My parents are a few thousand miles away and I have not seen them in over a year. You have inspired me to make that trip happen as soon as is possible! Thanks for that!

    Liked by 1 person

    • In the past, I usually saw my parents once a year. But due to Covid, last year I could only visit them in October (as opposed to May when I was supposed to go at first). When I saw my father, he was already using a walking stick, but he was still pretty much the same person with the same energy. I hope you’ll get to see your parents soon, with health protocols in place, of course.

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  14. I am so sorry for your loss, Bama. I was fearfully reading your thoughts hoping your story ended differently. Your tribute to your father is so moving and beautifully written, and the photos of you together show your special bond, especially as a young child. (You were adorable!) I hope you and your mother are taking care of each other, and also that the opportunity comes for you to travel to Hong Kong or Paris together. I’m sure your father would love that. Take care and much love to you. ♥

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Kelly. At first, I didn’t know how to write this post, but I decided to focus on the great memories my father and I made, and fortunately some photos from my childhood still survive. My mother and I will surely take good care of each other, and for the time being I’ll be seeing her more often than before, and maybe soon we’ll start discussing about that trip to Hong Kong as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Oh Bama, your words brought tears to my eyes. What a tremendous loss. I love how you linked your memories of your father with travel, and how he discovered the joys of cycling when he retired. The relationships we have with our parents can be so complicated, but despite your differences it sounds like you had a very special relationship, and shared a deep love for one another. I love the family photographs of your last Eid together. May you be able to hold on to all the beautiful memories you have of him in your time of grief. Sending you a big hug from across the world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The love was not always there — at least from my side. There was a time when I was filled with resentment of some things he said and did. But in my late twenties I began to understand the reason behind all of this. He had his own problems which he could not overcome or didn’t know how to deal with, and I started seeing things from a different perspective. Talking to my aunt — his older sister — also helped me understand about his past. I’m glad we were back on good terms not long before his retirement. Thank you for the kind words all the way from Portugal, Jolandi.

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      • I’m glad you were, Bama. So often it is only when we are further along in our adult years that we can see our parents as people with their own issues and struggles, which is not possible when we are teenagers or young adults. Life can be so complicated. Thank goodness you were blessed with the ability to see him from a different perspective, before he passed away.

        Liked by 1 person

  16. Bama, what an incredible tribute to your father. It is very beautiful and brought tears to my eyes. Life is so precious and there is nothing stronger than the bonds of a parent. I am very glad you got to see him and say goodbye, especially now in times of the pandemic. I am deeply sorry for your loss and thinking of you and your family. Next time you travel to Hong King and Paris you will think of him.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Nicole. Just now I called my mom and she told me that apparently my dad had been dreaming of going to Hong Kong since they were dating (more than 40 years ago!). I will definitely think of him when I take her there one day.

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  17. I’m so sorry for the loss of your father. Thank you for sharing this story and photos from your life with all of us. In the future (hopefully not too distant) you and your Mother can enjoy the trip to Hong Kong and carry his memory with you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Marilyn, and it’s nice to have you back here. I really hope that the pandemic will end soon so international travel is possible again. And when that happens, I will take that trip to Hong Kong with my mother. Maybe she will be able to tell what aspects of the city my father was so keen on seeing.

      Like

  18. Oh, Bama. We are so deeply sorry and send condolences for the loss of your father. This was a lovely tribute to him, and it’s clear you shared a strong connection even as your relationship had its ups and downs over the years. Those last photos of the three of you in 2019 are priceless! John and I send a virtual hug and wish you and your mom the best as you figure out life without your dad. Take care.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Susan and John. Earlier this afternoon when I had a phone call with my mom, she told me about a few things that happened to my dad almost 20 years ago. Back then, I wasn’t too aware of the details, but today I learned more about him and can’t help but feel more proud of him. I think so far I can say that my mom and I are doing relatively well at coping with our loss, and we will surely support each other.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Bama I am truly sorry for your loss. Dave and i extend our heartfelt sympathy. Your tribute is a genuine one and I appreciate you sharing the ups and downs of a lifetime relationship. How good that you could make all those trips to be with your Dad and Mom in those final times. A great comfort.
    The photos you shared are treasures. I hope you can take your Mom to Hong Kong and Paris in the years ahead. Sending our very best to you in this chapter of grief.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Much appreciated, Sue and Dave. I’m also grateful that I could see my father quite often during his final days. I admit that sometimes it’s still hard for me to believe that he’s no longer with us. But my mom and I are constantly learning to live in this new reality.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. I’m so sorry for your loss, Bama. Taking your mother to Hong Kong will be a mixture of pain (at not being able to be there with your dad) and the opportunity to honour your father. Take care.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Rebecca. I guess what you said will pretty much describe the mood of the trip. Hope you’re doing well!

      Like

  21. Very sad to hear about your father. I will remember him in my prayers and I hope you are able to take your mothe travelling with you. She will most need you now…

    This reminds me of someone once saying “life is fleeting, grab the moments”. But I hope he was happy all these years cycling, his passion. Reminds me, I too have wished to take my parents somewhere and with none of us getting any younger. Will have to make more concrete plans now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Param. I will be seeing my mother again quite soon, and I’ve already had plans on things to do with her while I’m in town. My father was undeniably happy for all his cycling adventures, and I’m really glad that he could experience those. I hope you’ll get to materialize that dream of taking your parents somewhere soon.

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  22. Mas Bama :” Turut berduka atas berpulangnya Papa-nya Mas Bama ya. Ini tulisannya indah dan jujur banget, bacanya ikut dagdigdug dan terharu. Mungkin di sana Papa-nya Mas Bama baca sambil senyum-senyum ehehe. Semoga doa dari Mas Bama juga memudahkan jalan alm Papa menuju jannah-Nya. Sehat-sehat Mas Bama dan Mama-nya, ditunggu ceritanya jalan-jalan ke Hong Kong dan Paris yah.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Terima kasih ya Mbak Justin. Seandainya beliau bisa baca tulisan ini, mungkin saya dan beliau sama-sama salting dan awkward karena kami memang kurang bisa berkomunikasi baik satu sama lain, beda dengan ibu saya yang orangnya sangat luwes. Tapi saya merasa bersyukur sekali bahwa tulisan saya yang saya buat waktu perasaan saya masih gak karu-karuan ini ternyata bisa diterima dengan hangat oleh Mbak Justin dan pembaca-pembaca lainnya.

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  23. Bama so very sad and sorry to read about your father. We both really enjoyed the story you wrote describing his life and his dreams and his amazing bike riding in his later years. The rest of the story made me feel very sad because my dad died a year ago and it just brought it all back with your words. So hard to lose our beloved parents. In my case, I was very close to my dad since childhood and as an adult and was fortunate to be at his side when he passed on.

    Your post and tribute to him is beautifully written and I do love the photos of the two of you. I hope you get to Hong Kong with your mom as I am sure that will be a very special trip which will all have been inspired by your dad.

    Deepest sympathy from both of us.

    Peta & Ben

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your kind words, Peta & Ben, and I share your grief. What you said about losing a parent was exactly what someone told me two weeks ago — he lost his father when he was still a teenager, and he said losing a parent felt a lot more personal than losing someone else you know. I’m glad that despite the pandemic, you were able to be there when your father passed away. I will never forget that feeling of seeing my father’s body while at the same time realizing that he was no longer with us.

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  24. Al Fatihah buat beliau mas Bama, saya baru sempat baca dan matanya ikut berair. Dua tahun lalu saya juga kehilangan ayah sehingga saya benar-benar bisa merasakan saat berada di depan beliau yang terbaring dan tak lagi hidup.
    Semoga setelah Pandemi ini mas Bama bisa membawa Mama ke Hong Kong dan Paris dan tentunya seluruh kota-kota cantik yang pernah ditinggali mas Bama, mungkin karena mendengar cerita indahnya dari Mas Bama, maka alm Papa dulu menginginkan kesana.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Terima kasih, Mbak Riyanti. Sekarang saya tau apa yang Mbak Riyanti rasakan ketika melihat ayah dipanggil Yang Maha Kuasa. Rasanya itu sulit digambarkan dengan kata-kata. Bukan cuma rasa sedih, tapi ada juga rasa kosong. Amin, semoga suatu hari nanti saya bisa mengajak ibu saya setidaknya ke Hong Kong dulu, soalnya kalau ke Paris udah kebayang duluan ribetnya ngurus visa.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. Turut berduka Mas Bama. Semoga setelah pandemi bisa ke Hongkong dan Paris. Sedih baca tulisan ini. Alfatihah untuk beliau Mas.

    Liked by 1 person

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