As a traveler you better get used to being asked where you are from, as this question comes up early in conversations no matter where you are going in the world. Nevertheless I was surprised to hear the Indonesian version “dari mana?” constantly when walking down the roads of Labuan Bajo. Without a greeting like “Halo” or “Selamat” it felt rather direct for the generally very modest and polite Indonesians. Of course, we didn’t want to be the rude foreigners and learned our reply: “Dari Jerman”. OK, actually Yoeri is “Belanda” by passport, but he is also a Berliner, and the Dutch are not very much loved in Indonesia.
More complicated was a second question which often followed, sometimes was even the only one asked: Ke mana? Where are you going? We were not only passing through as tourists therefore I didn’t know what to answer; hopefully nowhere for a while. Even though Labuan Bajo isn’t the most appealing place to be, it serves as a gateway to Komodo National Park with all its natural wonders as well as lush Flores. It was winter in Europe so we were definitely planning to stay in Indonesia for some time. Basically we came to stay, but on which islands and for how long we had no idea. “Where are you going?” turned out to be even more of a philosophical question revealing that we were drifting, going with the flow – quite happily, but without any proper destination or plan.
After a while we started to understand that these questions in fact are meant as a greeting. Unlike in other parts of the world where only strangers are asked, in Indonesia everybody is addressing everybody else this way. It’s simply not so much how you are doing, but where you are doing it. But even then you don’t have to be precise. You can say “jalan-jalan” for walking or my favourite expression “makan angin” (eating wind) which in a way reflected our approach to come to Indonesia quite well.
We moved on by now. But we still don’t really know where we are going or when this will happen. We are enjoying life where we are – most of the time at least. However I can show you where we are coming from and maybe where you are going to one day as we highly recommend exploring the beauties of Komodo yourself:
We just read a disturbing story of two dugongs, mother and child, that were kept on a chain in a little cage in shallow waters in Indonesia to be presented to eager tourists who could enter the cage for taking pictures with these endangered animals (selfie mania: stick to yourself!). Luckily two tourists not only refused to fall for this “attraction” and explained the status of these protected animals to the fisherman who caught and kept them, but also alerted wildlife authorities who freed them in the end (read full story on The Dodo).
It’s easy to blame the fisherman for imprisoning these gentle creatures, but truth is as long as there is a demand there will be a market. (That’s why the US war on drugs can’t be won by oppressing the producers in other countries, but that’s another story.) Therefore everybody: Please, be aware of the so-called tourist attractions that involve animals. Not always is the abuse as obvious as with a dugong on a chain in a cage.
In Bali we were constantly offered an island tour that included a stop for a very special coffee: kopi luwak. Ripe coffee cherries are eaten by the civet cat. While the pulp is digested the bean stays intact. Collected from the poo – actually here I wasn’t interested anymore – the beans are further processed. With so many tourists on Bali and all the tours offering this particular stop you can imagine how much poo has to be collected – every day. Instead of crawling through the bushes it’s much easier to catch a civet and forth fed coffee sherries to produce high quantities. Apparently all over South East Asia and for an international market… Tony Wild presented in The Guardian not only the development of this market, but also discussed a sustainable way of producing kopi luwak: Stay wild!
“Wild kopi luwak could provide smallholders with a premium product that also helps conserve the animal’s natural forest habitat. Maybe not so repulsive after all…”
Same goes for other animal attractions worldwide. There are very destructive and harmful ways and alternatives that can support local livelihoods and protect animal and their habitats in a truly sustainable way. We will put together some additional posting regarding tarsiers and whale sharks in the Philippines (to be linked soon).
But sometimes the only solution is: Stay away (like Boycott Seaworld)! For all divers and snorkelers it should be clear already: Don’t touch, don’t hold, don’t harass or chase (also not with that camera on a stick!).
If you want to see a dugong, find out where there are high chances of spotting them in the wild – without disturbing them. Apparently they can be seen in Komodo National Park. We keep our fingers crossed and our eyes open. But even without a dugong we have had fantastic diving, fascinating nature observations and unforgettable wildlife encounters on all our trips from Labuan Bajo. See for yourself in Yoeri’s clip for Uber Scuba Komodo:
The only way to explore the water world of Komodo Nationalpark: boat! But it’s more than just a way to travel. We enjoy the view of the islands in the sky before diving into the endless ocean and the sparkling sun on the water when getting back up after another magnificent dive part of the Flores Sea. Come to think of it: We actually wouldn’t mind to live aboard.
A week ago raining season started in Labuan Bajo. Even though the land in all the Eastern parts of Indonesia badly needed the rain, it does have its downsides. Not only are the clouds blocking our precious sun, but it creates quite some runoff that together with rubbish is being washed into the sea. But that’s a story for another day. Unfortunately it seems like the water, sediments and garbage have flushed away our internet too. Since five days there is no more connection in our accommodation anymore. “Maybe tomorrow?”, is the daily answer. Additionally to our nightly blackouts electricity stopped working this morning too. It most definitely does not make me happy.
It is annoying. It keeps me from doing things I planned to get done today. No idea when electricity is coming back, I’ve almost given up hope on internet all together. But what can I do? Be angry and frustrated all day about the situation, about the staff, about the circumstances in town, the weather in general. Possible, but it doesn’t change a thing. In fact I can’t control any of this. All I can do is to adapt my plan.
Just before the rain started I set up a new page on our website: Warm regards. I just got notice that my first real postcards from Indonesia started to arrive around the world. The idea for this section of online cards evolved from an evening with friends when we agreed that running – or any excessive sporting for that matter – is not our path to happiness, as well as a postcard I sent to my dad. Even though the quote on there is actually not from Buddha, it’s a good approach to life: “There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.” Nothing against running by the way: Take your time and enjoy it.
Instead of sharing my happy moments via cards I would love to have family and friends with me whilst travelling. Even the most paradisiac islands are better together. Come to think of it, a lot of these wonderful places don’t have internet or even reliable electricity. After all at the moment I only have to walk over to the dive center to get online. OK, the advertised “Free wifi” doesn’t exist, but the cable connection at least seems to be waterproof. Electricity just came back. Happy day!