Look. See. Take photo. Repeat.
That is not my kind of travel.
I like to explore a culture. Go behind the major sights. Get into the nuances of daily life.
This is an aspect of travel that Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) does really well. I've just completed my second trip with them, this time to Java and Bali. I went as their guest. I did so because of their policy regarding solo travelers and single supplements – it's the best I've found. They allocate a minimum of three spots on every trip for solos to have their own room without a supplement. On the trip I was on there were seven solos, all with their own room and no supplements were paid. Amazing when compared to other tour companies.
Ah, but let's get back to traveling behind the scenes.
Wandering through small villages.
It is highly unlikely that I would explore a small village of about 100 people on my own. I would feel like an intruder – as if I had wandered into a home uninvited. But the villagers knew our guide and were accustomed to seeing small groups walk their streets with him. I'm sure they also appreciated some financial benefit of letting us see their everyday life.
The Indonesians fought for their independence first from the Dutch and then the Japanese and then again from the Dutch until it was finally secured in 1949. This is recent history and was shared with us a few times before we reached the Bandung chapter of the Veterans Legion of the Republic of Indonesia. What a privilege to be warmly welcomed by these veterans and hear from a General in his 90s and others who fought for independence.
To Sara's for dinner.
A homestay or a home dinner is always on the OAT itinerary. Our group of 15 were split into four and driven in the private cars of four families in Yogyakarta for dinner. Three other travelers and I visited the home of Sara and her family. Sara is a new stay-at-home mother who lives with her husband's family as is the tradition. We were at the home of her parents where her father did the cooking. Her mother who is a quality assurance specialist with a medical company was home from one of her frequent trips to Singapore.
School visit always fun.
Another OAT standard is a trip to a rural school. To get there the 15 of us climbed into four minivans to take the steep, narrow roads into the mountains at Lovina to visit the Sekolah Dasar Negeri 3. Talking to the headmaster we learned about the curriculum. We attended a class where the students demonstrated their knowledge of the political structure of Indonesia. And finally we were treated to a traditional dance by a very talented student. The children were a delight.
Cottage industries and extended families.
After visiting the school we went up the road to visit a family of basket weavers. We were shown how the bamboo is died and then woven into baskets. They produce for local markets and they also make custom orders where they may weave the owner's name into the basket.
Lunch at home and a meeting with the village leader.
We also had lunch at a family home as a group. There we met the village leader and could ask him questions with Manik, our trip leader, acting as interpreter.
Over the course of the trip there were a number of impromptu connections with locals as well. I'll cover these in next Wednesday's post.
I thank Overseas Adventure Travel for sponsoring my trip to Java and Bali.