Get close to an active volcano in Indonesia
WITH its diverse
geography and ethnic groups, Indonesia offers plenty to the visitors with its more than 17,500 islands.
Take Tangkuban Perahu, for example. It is a volcano about 30km from Bandung, the country's third-largest city by population.
The active volcano, at an altitude of about 2,200m, has erupted more than a dozen times since 1826. The last eruption was in October 2013.
I had to work up my courage to walk to its edge for a closer look at the magnificent crater.
Visitors can buy disposable masks from vendors to beat the pungent odour of sulphur.
Another sight to take in is the Kawah Putih crater lake at an altitude of 2,430m.
The colour of the water in the lake varies from bluish to whitish green or brown, according to changes in the concentration of sulphur in the water and the weather.
For a long time, local residents believed that the lake was haunted because birds disappeared after flying into the area. Few used to visit the area until 1837, when a German botanist explored it.
Things have since changed. Vendors have popped up in the area, hawking volcanic mud products which are believed to help with skin problems such as acne and eczema.
Also in Bandung is the Saung Angklung Udjo, a centre dedicated to preserving and maintaining traditional Sundanese arts and culture.
It has traditional wayang golek (wooden puppet) performances and music performances which showcase a traditional instrument called angklung.
It has two or four bamboo tubes attached to a bamboo frame. When you gently shake it, the carved tubes make a resonant pitch.
Today, the angklung is often used in orchestras along with other instruments such as a guitar and percussion.
At the end of the segment, each member of the audience gets an angklung and the music director gives the audience members a music lesson.
As he said, music has no boundaries and brings us all together, no matter what age and nationality we are.
STREET FEATS AND EATS
A thriving street scene awaited me at the capital of Jakarta.
On the weekends, street artists gather at Kota Tua (old town) and dress up as various characters, including popular cartoon figures. For a small tip, you can get them to pose for a photo with you.
It is like a carnival and you can enjoy some street food too.
I was captivated by two artists in costumes who seemed to be seated in mid-air without any apparent support but I failed to figure out how they pulled that illusion off.
A stroll around the Pantai Indah Kapuk community at night also allowed me to experience the city's bustling atmosphere.
The area has Chinese, Japanese and Korean restaurants, coffeehouses and pubs.
There, my friends and I chanced upon a traditional snack shop that sells martabak, or pancakes.
It is said that the snack originated in Sumatra's Bangka Island, and was first made there by Hakka immigrants from Fujian province.
To make martabak, the cook spreads layers of butter, condensed milk and cheese onto the pancake.
Several senior residents who hail from the Fujian province in China also came by to buy the pancakes.
They were regular customers and invited us to share their fare. One of the residents said he loves the snack but buys it only once a month to control his sugar intake.
Our next destination, Putri Island, allowed us to take in the idyllic island life.
The place is good for snorkelling, diving and fishing.
Once in the water, you can see fish swimming among the red, blue and yellow reefs, which resemble clouds, brambles and even human brains.
On the land, you try to catch sight of squirrels, big lizards and bats.
Due to the sunny weather in Indonesia, it is a good idea to bring along sunblock and sunglasses. Mosquito repellent is also recommended.
Later at night, we indulged in a popular form of entertainment - karaoke.
Tunes of popular Chinese classics from decades past filled the lounge on the nearby Pulau Seribu island. With that, the dreamy holiday ended on a note of nostalgia.
ASIA NEWS NETWORK