*Day 53: Ary's Hospitality
Trip Start May 20, 2008
77Trip End Aug 19, 2008
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Where I stayed
Yoschi Inn & Bungalows
The first stop was Surabaya's Chinese mosque. Strangely, it was a Chinese explorer from the Ming dynasty who spread Islam across Indonesia and there are several monuments to him scattered throughout the city. The mosque itself wasn't more than a small recently constructed pagoda, more interesting for the fact that it was a pagoda mosque than for its architecture actually being gorgeous. The mosque's caretaker, who appeared to be dead or the midst of a stroke when we arrived but was in fact just napping on the pavement, explained the various symbolism of the building's design and paint job. I don't remember much of what he said, but I'm sure it was quite informative.
A fifteen minute drive from the mosque sight lead us to the Qubah, Surabaya's Arab quarter & marketplace. Now this was interesting. After plowing through a covered marketplace that I swear was airlifted from Old Jerusalem and nibbling on some yummy Iraqi dates Ary bought from a seller there, we arrived at the Something-Something Mosque, Surabaya's oldest and one of the oldest in Java, and just in time for prayer as well. It was an immense, tranquil building. At the entrance was a circular array of sinks which everyone was required to cleanse their hands in before entering. Also present was a "Please do not enter without Muslim attire" sign. Oh well, there goes that. Just then... Where's Ary? "He went to buy you Muslim attire." Me in my Head: "Oh you've gotta be kidding..." After going MIA for a minute or so, Ary returned with a brand spanking new sarong that I was to wrap around my decadent board shorts thereby gaining admittance to the prayer area. Did his generosity have no limit? Not only did that seem limitless, but his patience as well... It was no easy task teaching me how to put a sarong on, but once I got it, twas definitely one of those "oh, duh" sorts of things. While his wife and possible other wife (honestly she was probably just his sister or something) left to go pray, Ary and I were escorted through the complex by a docent who, like at the pagoda, explained the various symbolism behind the Mosque's architecture. The two most interesting things were a janitor's tomb with eight separate stones, one for each time this janitor came back to life because they just couldn't keep the danged place clean without him, and a gigantic Taiko drum used to call the people to prayer in case they didn't get the message after many muezzin prayer calls across the city.
It was early afternoon by the time the mosque tour was over, so we departed for Ary's favorite restaurant. It was a large, noisy, family oriented franchised place, like an Indonesian Applebee's or Olive Garden. As far away as I might be from home, there are some trappings (such as the presence of this kind of restaurant) that just don't change. KFC, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, they're all ubiquitous here, along with track homes, traffic, and tree lined boulevards. Even Kathmandu, different and culture shocking as it was, was at its heart a city like any other. The world is a smaller place than it seems, I tell ya... Anyways, I ordered some kind of Chinese chicken dish, it was yummy, and Ary not surprisingly footed the bill against my three attempts to pay it. Now it was time to get me to the bus station to catch my bus to Mt Bromo, via Probolingo. Ary got a bit lost trying to find the way there, but we eventually made it. I gave him an epic thanks for his generosity and bidded him farewell, assuring him that we'd keep in touch and giving him the bag of sultan tea I'd bought in Jogja. As we said goodbye, he warned me not to eat anything given to me on the bus, as it might be drugged & part of a scheme to steal my bag. Noted. I needless to say did not eat any of the bus food.
The bus ride was a sleepy five hours long, arriving in Probolingo just in time to miss the last public bemo onward to Bromo. I probed the various private ticket agencies in the bus terminal, and settled on a reputable looking one run by helpful Mr Toto. He was able to sell me a Probolingo > Bali bus ticket (for the next day) at a price under that recommended in Lonely Planet, but there were no further opportunities for me to get to Bromo by bus at this late hour. My best bet was to hire a motorcycle taxi for 60,000Rp, considering a Probolingo hotel would cost me at least 50,000 anyway. I did so, left my rucksack locked away in Toto's bedroom (with all the valuables removed), and hired said motorcycle taxi. Whizzing up a volcano late at night on the back of a motorcycle, staring at stars as clear as I've ever seen them, was probably as close to bliss as I'm going to get on this trip. No words could accurately convey what it felt like, I'll just have to keep the memory for myself. "Simultaneously peaceful and exhilarating" might cover it, but even that doesn't completely fit. The bliss came to a crashing end (not literally) with the old taxi-driver-earns-commission scam, as he stopped not all the way up the mountain at one of the crappier inns and refusing to drive farther, after I'd let him in on the fact that I didn't yet have a hotel reservation. The street touts insisted the inns further up were full, and the driver refused to continue on those grounds, but Mr Toto had told me Bromo was empty this season. I'd only be sleeping 4h and waking up at 3am in time to catch a jeep ride to the summit, so the accommodation didn't much matter anyway. I slapped the driver with 3/4s of the agreed upon fare (he got me 3/4ths up the mountain) and settled down for the night in a Yoschi Inn Bungalow. The only English word the bungalows' owner seemed to know was "Yes! :-D", resulting in much unintended comedy.