February 23, 2010 - Semarang, Indonesia

About two weeks ago, in our monthly Entertainment Department meeting, Jamie had casually mentioned to us that we may want to consider signing up for the tour during our time in Semarang, Indonesia because otherwise there is absolutely nothing to do! Well, enough said! Nic and I quickly went and visited our friend Ali at Destinations (do you see a theme starting here?) and we were signed up and ready to go in no time! The tour was listed as nine hours, which was the reason that Captain Dag had to previously twerk the itinerary around a bit. You see, we weren’t originally scheduled to be in Semarang a lengthy amount of time. In fact, initially, we weren’t planned to be in Semarang even long enough to allow for the tour to take place, but seeing as how it is the main attraction of the island, they reworked the timetable.

Java is the name of the island of which Semarang lies on, and has a population of about 150 million, half the population of the entire country of Indonesia! With the new schedule in place, we ended up docking in Semarang at about 6:00pm on the evening of Monday, February 22nd. This worked out perfectly! Carly, one of our singers was celebrating her birthday and had originally thought that we’d be at sea, but with the alteration in the itinerary, was happily surprised otherwise! The problem was: would we find anything to do?

Well, that problem was quickly solved! After our obligation of participating in the Captain’s Farewell Cocktail Party, Kaitlyn (Carly’s best friend on board) had researched and organized an evening out! We had arranged to all meet outside of the terminal at 7:30pm and would work out transportation logistics from there. Before we knew it, all twelve of us (The cast, minus Gabe, plus Boutique friends Bruno & Mark, and Destinations friend Tabata) filled two taxis and made our way to the Japanese Sushi Kitchen. All Carly wanted on her birthday was some really great sushi, and as I said before, Kaitlyn had done some research and came up with this place!

On our drive there, our confidences in Kaitlyn dwindled slightly, when we learned that the drive that we thought was five minutes was actually closer to thirty. And we all quickly became aware as to why Jamie had warned us to sign up for the tour. As we looked out the windows, we saw only shacks lining the streets, houses of the very poor and unfortunate people who inhabit them. The roads were in horrible shape. In some sections, we joked that we must still be on the boat because of the huge amounts of water filling the lake-sized potholes. They made West Carson Street in Pittsburgh feel freshly paved! It was very clear that we were in a struggling area. Needless to say, our assurance in Kaitlyn’s research took another drastic decrease. But, we were wrong! Eventually we saw the light at the end of the tunnel, literally. Ahead in the distance, after the bumpy ride and lack of any civilization lay a Pizza Hut, McDonalds, and much more. And then, before we knew it, we were ascending a hill. The shacks and hovels that lay right outside of port, now turned into beautiful mansions overlooking the entire town. They were very impressive, even by American standards. Things were looking up and our trust in Kaitlyn was back in action, as well as they should be! Next thing we knew, we were pulled into the parking lot of a beautiful restaurant.

Inside exposed a trendy, chic, and very posh décor. It was perfect! In the center of the entire restaurant was our table, a large, long wooden table stretching the length of the room, its center filled with sand, rocks, and candles. We had so much fun! Carly was very happy with how everything turned out, and definitely satisfied by the delicious sushi and “Flaming Bikini” shot too! After we were finished, we headed back to the ship. Nic and I had to run karaoke and others had their own responsibilities.

After Nic and I finished what was a really rough karaoke night (a guest gave us some issues) we headed to the crew bar. We stayed long enough just to wish Carly a happy birthday, sing and watch her blow out her candles. After all, our morning wake-up call was set for a very early 5:30am! Even with the altered schedule, to enable enough time for tour, we had to start ungodly early!

It felt like I had just closed my eyes when the phone rang with our wake-up call. I was definitely still tired, after all, I can’t recall the last time I saw this side of 6:00am, but it didn’t matter! Motivation was moving me. Today I was going to see one of the seven Ancient Wonders of the World!

The Borobudur Temple lies some 95km south of Semarang across the mountain range that straddles the island of Java lengthwise through the middle. This colossal Buddhist shrine, that perches on top of a protruding foothill of the South Central-Java Menoreh range, is one of the greatest monuments of its kind in the world, built sometime between 778 A.D. and 8442 A.D. under the auspices of the mighty Syailendra kings, Indra and Smaratungga. Its height is 42 meters and rests on a 115.129 sq meter base which utilized not less than fifty-five thousand cubic meters of volcanic rock for its construction. In addition, there are 504 over-life-sized Buddha statues, 73 large and 1,399 small stupas, and 2,272 panels of decorative and narrative bas-relief wall carvings, covering some 2,500 sq meters and reaching a total length of 2.9km – all to enhance its grandeur. Aside from that, the Borobudur is an inexhaustible source of information for us today as it reveals facts from some ten centuries ago. Its reliefs show how the characters in the stories live, pray, dance, play music, fish, hunt and how evildoers are punished in hell while people doing meritorious acts are rewarded. We see dwelling houses, rice barns, farm utensils, horse carts and ships which are still seen in many remote Indonesian islands today. Many typical Indonesian and Southeast Asian cultural elements have been documented here.

After a three hour long bus ride, including one stop on the way at a coffee plantation to drink (wake) up and use the restrooms, we arrived at the Borobudur temple. It was incredible! I couldn’t believe that I was actually there! My first impression was at how inconceivably intricate everything was. The temple is enormous, even by today’s standards. But the idea that it is manmade entirely of volcanic rock is unbelievable! The amount of effort put forth to create and build this insanely intriguing structure is beyond me! It truly is a remarkable existence!

And in the distance, providing the most perfect backdrop was one of Java’s many still active volcanoes. It was astonishing to see it in person, the smoke brewing from the top and over the giant work of nature. If I didn’t know any better, I may have mistaken it for a very large mountain, deciphering the smoke as low hanging, prominent clouds. And far below the volcano, in a garden that lay just beneath the temple, were two elephants strolling through the open green. The sight was amazing!

We scaled and climbed the gigantic structure over and over, making sure that we had seen it all, which we hadn’t. Even after, it seems impossible. I could have spent hours upon hours there, surveying every nook and cranny, every level, every statue, every panel of carved stone, depicting a historic tale of which the tour description earlier spoke. I was here! I was standing on one of the seven Ancient Wonders of the World, and I didn’t want it to end!

At around 11:00am, we had to make our way down to the gardens (where the elephants were) for lunch. Again, we were speechless when we saw the set-up that was arranged. Two giant tents stood, covering tons of round tables and a huge buffet. And in the very center of everything, was a stage, where local performers entertained the entire time we ate. It felt so wonderful, being there with my friends (Bruno, Carly, Kaitly, Mark, and Karen), just eating, laughing and having a good time. At one point, I mentioned that I felt like I was just ending high school and here I was, at a friends’ graduation party, under at tent, eating from a buffet. It was great!

Before heading back to the busses, I stopped and checked out what the merchants had to offer at their stands, which sat just off the eating area. I bartered (thanks for the tips, Barbara!), and picked up some goodies! We stopped at the same coffee plantation one more time before reaching “home”. That evening, we performed “Champagne”, for the first time since December 31, 2009! Needless to say, it was a little rough! Why they chose to train an entire brand new stage team, learning things for the very first time, during a LIVE show, is beyond me! Oh well, say la vie!

My time in Semarang was far beyond what I had expected! Everything from Carly’s birthday celebration to the temple, to the “graduation party” was just perfect! I can now check off my list, one of the seven Ancient Wonders of the World, looking forward to with how many more I’ll be able to do the same. I feel so blessed! Thank you, God! And, in this case, thank you Buddha!



P.S. There was also a bit of drama today! Two crew members from the Spa didn’t make it back on the ship! Apparently they thought that all aboard time was at 6:00pm. Oops! There is a lot of rumors flying about what may happen to them when they get back. I’ll keep you posted!



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1 Comment

February 28, 2010
Well once again you are all having a great time and the birthday celebrations are ones to remember forever. Wonder where you are for your Bday?? This seemed like another beautiful adventure and good eats etc. I am so happy for you honey. Pictures really do help explain your postings and put sights to the words.
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