Sunday, August 31, 2008

Ramadan Kareem - "Kul 'am wa enta bi-khair"! (May every year find you in good health!)

I figured seeing that we are living in a Muslim country I should at least try and understand the religion and one of the most important Islamic celebrations a little better.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic (lunar) calendar and it is considered the holiest of the four holy months in Islam and begins with the sighting of the new moon. Ramadan begins at sundown tomorrow, September 1.

For more than a billion Muslims around the world, Ramadan is a month of blessing and it is marked by prayer, fasting and charity.

Muslims believe that during the month of Ramadan, Allah revealed the first verses of the holy book of Islam (Qur'an). Around 610 A.D. a caravan trader named Muhammad was wandering the desert near Mecca (today's Saudi Arabia), thinking about his faith when one night, the voice of Angel Gabriel called to him, and told him that he had been chosen to receive the word of Allah. In the days that followed, Muhammad found himself speaking the verses that would be transcribed as the Qur'an.

During Ramadan, a couple of chapters of the Qur'an is recited each night in prayers known as tarawih and by the end of the month the complete scripture will have been recited.

Fasting is one of the duties of Islam and they take part in sawm (fasting) from the age of twelve. They fast for the entire month, and may not eat or drink anything, including water, while the sun shines.

During daylight hours, most restaurants are closed. Families get up early to eat a meal (suhoor) before the sun rises. After the sun sets, the fast is broken with a meal (iftar), that usually begins with dates and sweet drinks to provide them with a quick energy boost.

Ramadan ends with the festival of Eid al-Fitr, on Wednesday, October 1. Eid al-Fitr is one of the two very important Islamic celebrations (the other occurs after the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca) and literally means; “Festival of Breaking the Fast". People dress in their finest clothes, decorate their homes with lights and other decorations, give treats to children, and spend time with their family and friends. As the month draws to a close, Muslims are obligated to share their blessings by feeding the poor and making contributions to mosques.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

To quote our driver: "Happy Birthday, Indonesia".

Independence Day of Indonesia - 17 August'08

The Independence Day of Indonesia was officially proclaimed on 17th August, 1945. With this declaration the 5 year Indonesian National Revolution started, fighting against the Netherlands until they officially acknowledged Indonesia's independence, in 1949.

Indonesians take part in the Independence Day Celebrations with full enthusiasm. They begin the preparations for the Independence Day, weeks before the event. Skyscrapers, mainly the official buildings, shopping malls even residential properties are decorated with lights and large red and white bunting and people are requested to host the Indonesian flag. Happy, belated B-day Indonesia!

It's just not happening
I don't know where the days go, but August is almost gone. Since our great weekend at Ocean Queen Marc and I have been dying to do another trip but, like I always say "time flies when your having fun" and with all the fun we've been having socializing in August we ran out of weekends.

Monday, 18 August was a public holiday so we thought we'd take advantage of it and plan a trip away. The original plan was to go to Yogyakarta or Bali. We provisionally booked our flights but had to wait to hear if Marc needed to go on a business trip and whether he'd be back in time on the Friday. So, unfortunately when we did, it was to late and we couldn't find accommodation, being a busy Independence day, long weekend.

But being the travel bug that I am, I was determined to go away for the weekend and I made it my mission to plan a get away....somewhere, anywhere. But, after another week of research it looked like the weekend away was just not meant to be. I narrowed it down to either Bogor, Bandung or Krakatoa. Of course it turned out Bogor and Bandung was a no go too; All fully booked, and apparently traffic on a long weekend is always a nightmare (much like any other day in the city, I'm sure).

Still very determined (or is the word stubborn ass), and after seeing some fabulous photographs on the internet, of the beaches in Banten on the west coast of Java, with views of Anak Krakatoa (Child of Krakatao), it sure looked like the perfect long weekend destination and it's only a 2 and a half hour drive from Jakarta "perfect".

So once our driver agreed to work, and I managed to find accommodation it finally looked like the weekend might not be jinxed after all. Or was it...

To our disappointment, Anyer turned out to be a small village with the ocean on the one side and big factories in what can only be described as a large industrial area, on the other. Driving down the very narrow coastal road it was very obvious that we (ok, I) may have picked the wroooong weekend to get away.

But, I stayed positive, even when we passed 100's of people participating in an Independence Day parade. Groups in uniform marching to Kiri, Kiri, Kiri, Kanan, Kiri (Left, left, left, right, left) and serious loud speakers blearing every kilometer.

When I spotted the first sign of one of the resorts I looked at on the internet, I started to feel even less positive. And when we finally reached our resort I was well, certain that the weekend was jinxed after all. We decided to keep driving along, stopping off at a couple of the resorts along the road, but out of the 15 we stopped at, the only 2 that were okay, were also fully booked. But even if they weren't I still don't think lying around a pool with 100's of locals in their Independence day dress and buffet tables with more loud speakers set up all over the show was not really what we had in mind for our weekend break.

Most of the resorts have bungalows right next to the road, with nothing to really get excited about, as far as facilities go and there wasn't much of a "beach" to talk about either. O and no volcano in sight either, because of the thick smog. It was very funny actually; driving along I kept staring, trying to spot the volcano saying; "O, I think I saw something, O’s not" to which Marc replied laughing "You're not in the Kruger Park babe, it's a volcano...not a wild animal" LOL ;-)!

Anak Krakatoa (Child of Krakato) is the main (only) attraction it seemed and we were advised not to take a boat trip to the volcano that day, because of bad weather that caused large waves. So, needless to say, we were home later the same day, enjoying the comforts/and 'quite" of our own home.

We are still planning a trip to Anak Krakatau, but next time we'll listen to the advice of the tour operators (ok, me again) and just do it as a day trip with a group. Or camp overnight on the volcano...that might be an adventure ;-)

Reading up on the devastating event of 1883, when Krakatoa erupted, I am reminded again that we life on the ring of fire! Hard to imagine.... Read more about it here.

Monday, August 04, 2008


Saturday the 26 of July, started off like any other Saturday. We enjoyed a cup of coffee, a quick breakfast while planning our day. We were looking forward to a nice Saturday, purchasing a BBQ, paying the outstanding balance on our sofa and spending a lazy afternoon around the pool.

We couldn't find a BBQ we liked from the 1st shop we went to and decided to meet friends for lunch a Chito's (Chilandak Square), while we were in the area, before heading back to Kemang to pay for the sofa and hopefully pick up a BBQ from the Hiro.

After a great lunch at Mother's Cook we decided to go to Double Decker for a cup of coffee and this is where our perfect Saturday morning was ruined when my handbag was stolen.
I actually still can't believe this. I praise myself as being very careful and alert (sometimes a bit paranoid), especially when it comes to my handbag. I guess this is something you pick up on, living in Johannesburg. You let your guard down and, wham.....

So sadly, this HIT cost us my favorite handbag from Singapore, Approx. $450 (the balance we were planning on paying for our Sofa that day), Ouch!!!!!, mobile phone, SA drivers license, ID book, make-up, sun glasses and some other personal items!

How? We were the only four people in the restaurant; Marc and I were sitting with our backs inside the restaurant, with Armid and Ryan facing us. My handbag was on the floor between our chairs. Not sure when they stole it, or how because they would have had to crawl on the floor or lean over the chair behind me to get to it. We suspect it was an inside job; Coffee was spilt, I had to move my bag from between my feet to next to me...anyway, it probably involved a broom or mop but like Marc says; it was the most expensive magic trick he's ever seen!

We've learnt that this is apparently a problem at Malls around Jakarta and that there is some sort of “handbag thieve” syndicate, so ladies watch your bags and trust no one!

Needless to say our perfect Saturday turned into the worst day of angry tears, phone calls to Banks to cancel cards, mobile company to block the SIM etc.

Armid decided it would be a good idea to invite us over for an evening of pizza and Wii to get our minds off the handbag incident. "Thanks, Armid".

We had a lovely evening playing Wii. I sucked at the athletics but boy was I on fire with the archery. Shooting that bow and arrow definitely did get my mind of the stolen handbag incident even though I have to admit; the reason I was so good at it boys was because I imagined shooting the thieves running away with my handbag ;-0!
I think Marc was also imagining knocking the thieves out, with the boxing game.

On Sunday we decided to do what we were planning on doing on Saturday, paid for the sofa (withdrew cash and went straight to the shop), bought the BBQ, purchased a new mobile and we really enjoyed our steaks but as you can image the topic of conversation the whole day and at least the next two days were about the; if only's, why didnt's, I can't believe's of what we call the HIT.

My mind was clearly elsewhere that weekend, and so was Marc's for not noticing; because to my embarrassment when I took my earrings out later I realized that I had two different colour and style earrings in. LOL ;-0 Now I know why the shop assistants, tellers and even a couple of other woman, standing/walking close enough past me, seem to look at me funny.